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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Is FDA Seeking NSA Capabilities?

As reported by @AlecGaffney in Regulatory Focus (here), the "US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a notice indicating that it is seeking the services of a company to help it monitor online sentiment, keep abreast of social media conversations and even determine 'influencers' to better target its outreach."

It's interesting that the FDA seems to think social media is very important for conducting and monitoring its communications with consumers and healthcare professionals, but has problems issuing guidance to help the pharmaceutical industry do the same. In this respect, I agree with Republican Tom Coburn (R-OK), who said "maybe federal agencies should take some time away from figuring out what people think about them and spend more time just doing their job."

Here's a summary of what the FDA is looking to accomplish by hiring an outside agency (before spending millions hiring an external agency, however, FDA should contact the National Security Agency, aka the NSA):

  • monitoring and measuring the reach of its messages in real time, as well as public sentiment toward those messages

  • assessing the impact of its messages (including the geographic regions of impact), determining "influencers," and analyzing data to better target specific messages to various audiences

  • monitoring mass media content and social media conversations to target communication and address information gaps
"FDA's notice also includes a lengthy list of additional requirements for any software it would potentially purchase in the future," writes Alec. "The software would, for example, need to draw data from "multiple social media channels," including Twitter, blogs, online forums and other social networking platforms. Interestingly, FDA also wants a tool that can help it filter through photos, video and audio sources, such as podcasts." [my emphasis].

I can only hope that my blog posts, podcasts and tweets are swept up in FDA's snooping activities. Maybe then it will think I'm an "influencer" and respond to my inquiries.

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