What Your Text Messages Say About You

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How would you feel about your therapist reading all of your communication on your phone? Some people think this is necessary and are working on this technology.

Meeting with a mental health expert once per week gives the therapist a cross-sectional viewpoint of their patients’ lives. But what if they could read the patients’ social media activity and texts? Wouldn’t that paint a better picture of the clients’ mental state?

Sure it would but it would also be a heck of a lot of data to comb through for each client. Not to mention a privacy concern. Some apps are addressing these concerns. For example, one app called mindLAMP collects what it calls “digital biomarkers” such as sleep patterns, screen time and exercise to give the therapist an indication of the patients’ lifestyles. Another research project sends therapists GPS data and movement from the phones as well as sample audio recordings. When the app records no speech for a long period of time, it would alert the therapist of prolonged isolation periods that should be addressed.

Some researchers are also hoping that search data could help with suicide prevention.

Handing over all of this personal data is surely concerning because of what would happen if it were in the wrong hands. Then again, it is worth considering what could happen if it were in the right hands.

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