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The Associated Press recently reported that the U.S. government health care website, HealthCare.gov, shares personal information with third party vendors that are embedded in the site. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are among the dozens who potentially have access to your medical history.

The Obama administration argues that the partnership with data firms is to improve the user experience on the site, and they believe the data gathered can help them make the site a more streamlined experience. Third parties are not allowed to use the data to further their own business interests, although there is no word on how the administration will enforce this rule on the vendors who have access to medical information. A representative from Google stated they will not target ads based on a person’s medical history.

While it is unclear what the fulls scope of the information these third party firms have access to, it includes whether or not a person is pregnant, is a smoker, their income level, their age, their ip address and more. The government insists that there is no personally identifiable information that is shared with third parties. Both a person’s real name and social security number are kept confidential.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was one of the first to independently confirm these reports. The EFF raised serious concerns about companies like Doubleclick, one of the confirmed partners of HealthCare.gov, using tracking cookies to build a profile of a person based on information gathered across multiple sites. Even if the health care website does keep identifying information secret, they might still be able to connect your medical information to your real identity based on information gathered at other sites, which is all part of the same profile.

While this is a serious privacy concern for some, it also presents a further a further danger of personal medical history being obtained by hackers. Since the data has been spread far and wide to numerous third parties, if any single one of them is hacked it could lead to huge amounts of medical information being leaked or held for ransom. The EFF suggests using software, such as their own Privacy Badger, to prevent third parties from collecting information.

Do you think the government violated people’s privacy by sharing this information with third parties? Leave your comments below.


Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.



  • Alex

    1. I can understand maybe why share the information with Google but why twitter and Facebook?

    2. ”the data gathered can help them make the site a more streamlined experience” What the hell do they mean by that?

  • 33

    I’ll be honest I would like to see the sorts of ads that would target people based on their medical history. The whole thing is terrible but there could be some amusing ads there.

  • 33

    Facebook needs to know every single thing about its users. Twitter needs to complain about it.

  • Alex

    =))

  • Typical

    Well that’s amazing. Let’s have the government control everything as they’re so trustworthy.

  • Brad Sherard

    Trans post-op, breast implants and other such medical histories could create very risky targeted ads. Privacy and ownership of one’s information aside, this could really cause some problems for some people who already may feel insecure about themselves. Can you imagine how some guy with ED would feel when every site he visited him was spamming him with ‘natural enhancement’ ads? Imagine if those ads showed up in such people’s browsers at work. Would anyone really want planned parenthood ads showing up while doing a work presentation on a website, telling everyone that Jane is thinking about getting an abortion?

    This stuff sounds vaguely disconcerting in the abstract, with monolithic organizations gathering info about us but there are very real concrete problems that will fall out of this nonsense.

  • Gasbandit

    WEIGHT LOSS ADS GALORE FOR ALL US AMERICANS

  • Erthwjim

    And how would the government react if it were a private company doing the sharing? And beyond that, if they’re doing this with info from healthcare.gov, what will they do with the info that goes through the health information exchanges?

  • Nick

    How is that not a HIPAA violation?

  • Bearpants112

    So it’s my private medical information that is only accessable by me, my doctor, the entire federal government, and any corporation that wants it.

    At what point is it just no longer private? Seems like we’re just calling it that out of tradition.

  • Bearpants112

    It all gets added to the database that these corporations keep on their users. Targeted advertising, manipulation, control.