Facebook already knows who your best friends are, the sorts of movies you’re into and where you went on holiday last summer; soon it could also be watching over how healthy your lifestyle is. Reports from inside the world’s biggest social network suggest that it’s plotting a move into healthcare with support groups and dedicated apps.
Facebook wouldn’t be the first giant tech company to unveil a new health-related product in 2014: Apple, Google and Samsung are all making major plays in this area, though Mark Zuckerberg’s plans seem to be less expansive. Smartwatches are getting in on the health tracking scene and Facebook won’t want to be left out if it can help it.
According to the report by Reuters, Facebook execs are mulling over the idea of support groups for specific ailments (apparently many people already turn to the site for advice on health issues) as well as independent lifestyle apps that would be separate from Facebook — think mobile tools that could encourage you to pick up healthier habits. Whether those habits would include spending less time browsing Facebook remains to be seen.
Reuters’ sources say Facebook is already in talks with partners in the medical industry and is busy building a research and development unit to look into the possibility of launching new health apps. Facebook refused to comment, as you would expect, but the company is said to be hoping that a move into healthcare can boost engagement with the site.
It wouldn’t be the first time Facebook has dabbled in the area of health: Registrations for organ donations rose sharply when the site added the option to display organ donor status on profiles in 2012. As always with the social network, privacy would be a big concern — although national and international regulations limit the collection and use of healthcare data, Facebook would once again be under the microscope as to how information was stored.
These initiatives are only at the “idea gathering stage” for now, and may not ever appear in full, but they’re something to watch out for as Facebook’s growth continues. As of June 2014, the site registered 829 million daily active users on average across the world, 654 million of whom were using mobile apps to engage with the network.