Analysis Raises New HealthCare.gov Privacy Questions
January 20, 2015 in News
HealthCare.gov contains embedded connections between the website and several third-party technology companies, prompting concerns about privacy, according to an analysis by technology experts, the AP/New York Times reports.
The analysis was conducted by various technology experts, including Mehdi Daoudi, CEO of Catchpoint Systems. The analysis was replicated by the Associated Press during one 10-minute visit to HealthCare.gov.
Catchpoint Systems identified 50 third-party connections embedded in the federal health insurance exchange site.
Meanwhile, the AP discovered that dozens of third-party sites were accessed in the background, including:
- Google’s data analytics service;
- Twitter; and
- Several online advertising providers.
The analysis found that dozens of data companies might be able to determine when a user is on HealthCare.gov. In addition, some companies might be able to piece together a user’s age, income, ZIP code and medical information, according to the analysis.
The third parties cannot see a user’s name, birth date or Social Security number, but they might be able to determine personal information by noting that a user accessed HealthCare.gov and comparing that with other Internet activities.
HealthCare.gov’s privacy policies states that “no personally identifiable information” is collected by third-party web measurement tools, which are considered a standard part of e-commerce, according to the AP/Times.
According to the AP/Times, there is no evidence that such information has been misused.
Cooper Quintin, a staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said “I think that this could erode … confidentiality when dealing with medical data and medical information.”
According to CMS spokesperson Aaron Albright, third-party vendors “are prohibited from using information from these tools on HealthCare.gov for their companies’ purpose,” adding that the government uses them for performance measurement purposes (AP/New York Times, 1/20).