A new threat to our mental health privacy?

Karl Denninger sounds the alarm over a development that I’m forced to agree may have sinister overtones.  I take it seriously enough that I’m going to republish his warning in full.

This is exactly what I’ve been very worried about for more than 20 years.  It’s a concern that has plenty of merit too, particularly given the durability of data in the “big data” social universe.

Thomas Insel, who has been director of the National Institute of Mental Health for 13 years, is leaving at the end of the month to join Google. A major force behind the Obama administration’s BRAIN Initiative, he stirred major controversy by pressing for an overhaul in the way mental illness is diagnosed. At Google, he’ll be exploring how the company’s technological expertise can be applied to mental-health issues.

Uh huh.

Think about what he’s saying for a minute here folks:

One of the possibilities here is, by using the technologies we already have, technologies that are linked to a cellphone, technologies that are linked to the Internet, we may be able to get much more information about behavior than what we’ve been able to use in making a diagnosis.

Technologies that are linked to a cellphone, technologies that are linked to the Internet?

You mean “technologies” that involve monitoring what you do and say, right — without disclosure of what the data is intended to be used for and who it will be disclosed to or what they may do with it?

Oh by the way, that analysis and disclosure will be retrospective too.  Why not?  There’s nothing to prevent it.

Think this is crazy?  It most-certainly is not.  And what’s worse is that the government is in the middle of giving the firms involved in this blanket immunity when they give them said data even if they violate your privacy or you are subjected to wrongful harassment or even arrest as a consequence!

Still want to be on Facebook and use “Search” eh?

You might want to think about that very carefully.

I urge you to follow the links provided above and read them all, as well as Mr. Insel’s farewell blog post as Director of the NIMH.  I see a lot of fine-sounding language that’s long on promise but very sparse on specifics.  How will individual privacy be safeguarded by the new research methodologies and techniques that are promised?  Will they be founded on scientifically demonstrable facts and proven techniques, or on politically correct ‘feel-good’ theories?  Take, for example, these excerpts from Mr. Insel’s article ‘Transforming Diagnosis‘.

The diagnostic system has to be based on the emerging research data, not on the current symptom-based categories … We need to begin collecting the genetic, imaging, physiologic, and cognitive data to see how all the data – not just the symptoms – cluster and how these clusters relate to treatment response.

That is why NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories. Going forward, we will be supporting research projects that look across current categories – or sub-divide current categories – to begin to develop a better system.

. . .

Many NIMH researchers, already stressed by budget cuts and tough competition for research funding, will not welcome this change. Some will see RDoC as an academic exercise divorced from clinical practice. But patients and families should welcome this change as a first step towards “precision medicine,” the movement that has transformed cancer diagnosis and treatment. RDoC is nothing less than a plan to transform clinical practice by bringing a new generation of research to inform how we diagnose and treat mental disorders.

There’s more at the link.

Sounds fine, doesn’t it?  However, where are the specifics?  Where is the guarantee that such research ‘divorced from clinical practice’ will, in fact, follow clinically sound principles?  For example, I’m willing to bet that one of the first ‘experiments’ will conclude that firearms ownership is an indicator and/or risk factor in mental illness, and therefore needs to be considered – and regulated – in the light of health issues rather than as a constitutional matter.  There are already calls being made for that.

I have the strong impression that Mr. Insel is unlikely to exercise a balanced approach in such areas.  For all our sakes, I hope I’m wrong.

A tip o’ the hat to Mr. Denninger for alerting us to this.  I think his fears are justified.



  1. If you'be ever sought counseling then you're a risk. Libs think they can cure hunger and poverty, but never anything requiring couseling. Oh, and as for privacy…well, we will tell you what amount of privacy you can have, citizen.

    Be afraid, but better yet, be stocked up on ammo.

  2. "Big Brother" in all it's fearful power.

    They are now cross checking anti-depressants with gun ownership…this recently happened to a relative who is required to carry a gun daily. They asked him if he were depressed or ever thought of shooting himself or others.

  3. An editorial, coming soon:

    Last straw clearly proves gun nuts are crazy and dangerous, and should be locked up.
    For their own good, and ours.

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