The hunt for your health data, its implications and use for nefarious purposes

Your Health Data is the most valuable personal information that can be collected from you. Here are some examples of its collection and what the implications of that collection can be. It is to be expected that these kinds of applications will be ever more broadly applied, and lead to ever more serious negative consequences tor the individuals that are targeted.

The first article I’ll link details how a health-related, privacy-sensitive search query (in this case using privacy-aware DuckDuckGo, but clicking by accident on a sponsored link) quickly led to someone’s health issue being widely spread throughout the entire commercial advertisers world:

From the article:

“It seems that while searching for information on vasectomies, I had, without realising, clicked on a sponsored search result.” […]

“In the end, from just one search, 14 separate servers run by a variety of companies, including Google, Microsoft and Adobe, received data revealing my interest in information about a vasectomy.” […]

“[I also visited the] Government-run Better Health website. When I visited that site, I didn’t expect details of my browsing behaviour related to sexual and reproductive health would be shared, without consent or notice, with third-party marketing companies. But they were.”


The article then goes on speculating how often this kind of data collection occurs (hint: very often) and whether the data can be de-anonymized (hint: it can).

Could your health data be used to discriminate against you?

“There is also growing concern about the use of health data to discriminate against people when applying for jobs, bank loans or insurance.” […]

Dr De Choudhury has concerns about where such data could end up.

“The secondary uses of these inferences is what really concerns me,” she said. “What happens downstream — where does that data go? Does that data go to advertisers, does that data go to insurance companies or even to the government?,” she said.
“If employers use tools that predict a prospective hire’s mental state from their social media, for instance, the potential for discrimination is immense.”

For those concerned about such tracking, Dr Libert suggested using the TOR browser.

Worrying, isn’t it? The second article I wanted to share is related to this. When using medical equipment prescribed by your doctor, then that equipment may be spying on you, and send that data to your insurer (among others), who will then try to use this data to have you foot the bill for the equipment, not them. Their practices are outright nefarious.

Note: The article was also discussed on Hacker News with 130+ comments.

“Privacy experts worry that data collected by insurers could be used to discriminate against patients or raise their costs.” […]

“Wait — you guys are using this thing to track my sleep?” Umansky recalled saying. “And you are using it to deny me something my doctor says I need?” […]

“You view it as a device that is yours and is serving you,” Umansky said. “And suddenly you realize it is a surveillance device being used by your health insurance company to limit your access to health care.” […]

Privacy experts said such concerns are likely to grow as a host of devices now gather data about patients, including insertable heart monitors and blood glucose meters, as well as Fitbits, Apple Watches and other lifestyle applications. Privacy laws have lagged behind this new technology.

Read the whole article. It is very disturbing. This story is part of an ongoing series from ProPublica and NPR called The Health Insurance Hustle.

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It is concerning indeed ; you may or may not have heard of the recent scandal in Australia with your health records being automatically uploaded online; and if you wished it not to be accessible to literally any kinda medical personal (even your pharmacist, our massage therapists ) you had to opt out before the 15th of November BUT … the real issue was that it was so convoluted to do so that noone was managing to opt out!! Talk about freedom of your own personal info here!!!

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