A while ago, I noticed Aza Raskin left Mozilla to start Massive Health. I also noticed later a $2.25M funding for Massive Health. I also noticed their first app, The Eatery, and I even downloaded it. Not a lot to say about it before today but I had a strange feeling using it.

A few minutes ago, a line from TUAW appeared in my RSS reader: The Eatery is their app of the day. And reading it, I now understand better my original bad feeling.

  1. The app knows only a range of values between "Fat" and "Fit". Ah. Of course, fat-free sources of vitamins will always be tagged "Fit". Unless you take a too high dose of vitamins, and that can be really dangerous... Food is made of a lot of things, and cannot be reduced to a single range ("non-fat" to "fat").
  2. The app relies on the comments of people who are not dieticians, who don't know you well enough (in the medical sense) to judge what's good and bad for you. Since it's Facebook-based, some commenters may have never seen you at all...
  3. The app relies on the comments of people who judge only based on one picture, usually of low quality, and sometimes (but not always) a short legend. In short, it's impossible to tell. "Salad, tuna and tomatoes" would usually trigger a "fit" but what's in the dressing? The viewer will rarely (or never) know.
  4. As an example, Massive Health used the data to forge maps, as says the TUAW article. Uh?!? You mean an insurance company can check in a few seconds if one lives in a "Fat" district of San Francisco or in a "Fit" one? If you are a good customer for them or if you are statistically more prone to a cardiac/diabetes problem because you live in a place where people usually eat "Fat"? Wow. Wow. And some think Google is dangerous because they aggregate too much data about you?

I am super-skeptical. I am extremely reluctant to give any kind of information regarding my own health or daily food habits (with geolocation of course) to private companies, even if they show a large "Don't be evil" mantra like Massive Health. I'm just European I guess, but for me, that app is not too far away from what we call here "Exercice illégal de la médecine". Despite a superb UI/UX, I am not seeing any good in such a social-network-powered app, sorry.

"If you're not paying for it, you're the product being sold"