Pregnancy

Facebook Wants Your Health Care Info Since They Already Know Everything Else About You

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facebook health careDepending on how much of an oversharer you are, Facebook already probably knows a lot about you. But how much does Facebook know about your health? The social media giant is developing new initiatives to roll out health care-related apps that interact with Facebook. Because if there’s one thing I want to tell the company that curates the information I provide and that sells me ads tailored to my interests, it’s definitely my current health status.

Facebook is always looking for ways to make sure you leave their site as little as possible, and to them, your health is just another terrific way to increase your engagement. And to be fair to Mark Zuckerberg and his crew, Facebook’s previous forays into the realm of health have had positive effects: after that the site added the option to display your organ donation status on your profile, over 13,000 people in the USA went online to sign up as donors. The kind of peer pressure that reminds people that they can help save lives is just fine by me. And Facebook’s new ideas for health care apps include creating peer support communities for people dealing with chronic illness. What could go wrong with a warm, fluffy idea like that?

Well, where Facebook is involved, plenty. For one thing, thousands or millions of chronically ill users means a lot of data spiraling down into the black hole of Facebook’s servers. Who is going to get that data? Advertisers who will be able to buy ad space in these new apps to try to sell you a diet cleanse to cure your fibromyalgia, or the hot new diabetes cure that they swear the FDA is holding out on? Biomedical research companies who are looking for population-level data on the cheap? Then again, maybe biomedical researchers might not be the ones to worry about. Just this past summer, Facebook came under fire for conducting “emotional contagion” research on its users by manipulating which posts appeared in their news feed in an effort to see if a happy news feed made for happy users, or if a sad news feed meant sad users. Add some sensitive health information into the mix, and you think Facebook is going to leave that on the table? I don’t think so.

Reuters reports that Facebook is aware of the privacy concerns involved in Facebook’s potential entry into health care technology:

But Facebook may already have a few ideas to alleviate privacy concerns around its health initiatives. The company is considering rolling out its first health application quietly and under a different name, a source said.

That sounds less like a way to “alleviate” privacy concerns and more like a way to side-step around them. The only thing that’s being alleviated by Facebook launching health care apps under a different brand is the likelihood that users will avoid their services because they don’t want their health data collected and aggregated by a company who probably already knows an unhealthy amount about them.

(Image: Gil C / Shutterstock)