HealthCare.gov Stops Sending Consumer Data To Third Parties
After the public outcry over privacy concerns, the administration reversed the practice of sending consumers’ personal data of HealthCare.gov to third parties for commercial analysis.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press revealed that the government’s health insurance website was secretly sending private information of the consumers for advertising and marketing purposes. The personal information included age, ZIP code, tobacco use and expectancy of a woman. This revelation led to changes being made to HealthCare.gov.
The site is used by millions of people to sign up for coverage under the health care law, or to just browse through insurance plans in their communities.
The changes were confirmed by Cooper Quintin, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group. Quintin called it “a great first step,” but said the administration needs to do more.
Officials of the Health and Human Services Department had first defended the practice of information sharing, saying that third party companies were only using data to analyze the site and make it improved accordingly for the benefit of the consumers. However, there is no proof that the information has been misused.
HealthCare.gov was created under President Barack Obama’s health care law, which allows for government subsidized private insurance to people who lack any coverage on their jobs. It is open for 37 states so far, and the remaining states run their own insurance markets. Ironically, this privacy breach arose at the same time the president was fighting for better security of Internet consumers.
Such news is not a new one. Time and again, we have been hearing about companies like Facebook and Google selling our personal information to other companies to customize their marketing and advertisement according to our personal interests.
Tracking website performance has now become a standard part of E-commerce. Since your personal devices can be assigned an individual signature, profiles of Internet users can easily be put together, generating lists that have commercial value.
While third party sites embedded on HealthCare.gov can’t see your name, birth date or Social Security number, they can still relate your Internet activities done from the computer which accessed the site.
Privacy advocates believe that the administration still has a huge window to complete. The fact that the website has allowed private companies to obtain data, should be strictly evaluated to make sure no sensitive information about an individual is being revealed.