Everyone has heard about how social media giant Facebook collects and uses data from its members. But this type of activity is also happening with health sites like WebMD.com. There is much consumer misunderstanding about why this is happening. And this is why an inquiry has been opened into some of these sites, and their data-mining activity. The inquiry was opened by Illinois’s Attorney General Lisa Madigan in an effort to increase transparency in the industry. Madigan was also concerned about how information about the private health concerns of users was being spread.
It’s also true that this information, which would remain confidential had it been shared in a doctor’s office, undergoes quite a different process when questions are asked online. When a user accesses a health site via internet providers by zip code, any information shared via entry into a form can be captured and then sold, although the consumer may not be aware. This can often be the case because information about how customer data is used cannot be easily located on some sites or in the privacy policies of those sites. And although a site’s policy may say it doesn’t engage in the sharing or selling of personal information, this doesn’t prevent third parties from using non-personal user data to better target ads.