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Thoughts of the Week
Introducing a weekly newsletter. Two eyeroll-appropriate items for October 2nd.
This is the inaugural edition of a weekly newsletter with a lighter, briefer format than my research and long-format commentaries. Those are still very much forthcoming, roughly monthly – the next one is about how investing strategies in the energy industry are the key to stopping climate destruction.
These brief pieces will look at big, complex, gnarly problems and oversimplify them – “What!?” you say. I strongly believe Occam’s Razor is an essential tool for making progress in the current oversaturated learned-sounding-discourse-as-obfuscation environment.
Before we get started, I’ll again share that reaching people and growing readership keeps the energy and motivation going to prepare the Brightburn blog. If you enjoy it and find value in it, please join with others in sharing and recommending it. Thank you!
Here are the thoughts for this week:
One of the dominant narratives now is “inflation.” The news is filled with much handwringing about it, in terms that make it sound like this is some phenomenon of nature like an earthquake. However, inflation is engineered into the financial system. Keep in mind that humans make the decisions behind economic activity and how the machinery is set up. Those decisionmakers are storytellers, and they created this narrative of “it’s just what happens sometimes, and we have to do painful things to deal with it.”
But here’s the problem with the narrative: normal everyday folk didn’t just show up at the store and outbid each other for bread to drive up the price. They didn’t start this part of the cycle. Instead, the financial world realized that a) the “little people” were getting uppity because of the low level of unemployment, and b) they had had money trickling down to them for a decade and life was getting too easy for them. Hence – time to sponge it back up! Companies simply started charging more because they could, because there was that much more money in Jane Public’s pocket. Read Robert Reich if you want to go for a deep dive.
Here’s one from the Privacy desk: “Mood Health” (or “Much Better, Inc.,” their real name) is another contender in the “mental health care sucks so we automated it” game. Providing mental health care should be up close, personal, available, and affordable. The multimillionaire insurance company executives don’t agree so instead mental health is moving online, using everything from “AI” chatbots to offshore call centers. Hopefully sometimes the service provides practitioners who are more local and know what they’re doing, even if the sessions are virtual. Everyone wants a piece of this action because they can do it cheaply and make big bucks.
I agree this is sometimes the only available option and may be better than nothing. Emphasis on may. Mood Health’s lack of privacy protections could be hazardous to your well being in other ways even if they have real live practitioners on the other side of the chat or zoom or email.
Mood has decided they don’t have to abide by HIPAA privacy regulations, which saves them a lot of money no doubt. It also eviscerates the hard-won protections that everyone receiving health care relies on to keep their sensitive information out of the hands of advertisers, employers, data brokers, hackers, and the other shadowy figures infesting our digital world.
Therefore, even though your personal information contains medical information that is the type of information commonly protected under HIPAA, it is not subject to any of the protections available to you under HIPAA. HIPAA is inapplicable to our relationship with you
By visiting, accessing, or using the Site and/or the App, you acknowledge and agree in each instance that you are giving Much Better permission to monitor or otherwise track your activities on the Site and/or the App, and that Much Better may use the aforementioned technologies and/or other tracking, data aggregation and data analysis technologies.
While they don’t say they sell your information they do say they are not subject to California CCPA privacy laws even though they “may have personal information about you that is the type of the information subject to the CCPA.”
In short, Mood simply throws all protections out the window, and you’re on your own.
In contrast, real health care providers are required to use only third-party services that are HIPAA compliant. And they don’t unilaterally declare themselves free of any obligation to comply with Federal law.
OK, that’s it!
Good luck out there.