Liking and Sharing Your Health Information: Privacy Concerns Raised Amidst Rumors of “Facebook Healthcare”

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 7.04.19 AMBy Alex Boguniewicz

Every day millions of people share their interests, photos, and locations on Facebook. So why not share how you are feeling—medically that is. At least that seems to be the idea behind Facebook’s rumored plans to provide a platform for healthcare services. This month, anonymous employees of the social networking company leaked information that Facebook is planning to develop health applications, allowing users to make healthy lifestyle choices and connect with “support communities.” As part of this program, users would have to disclose private health information to Facebook. We have previously examined Facebook’s policy of forwarding user information to online advertisers and its alleged violations of European Union’s privacy laws. Due to Facebook’s history of privacy issues, this potential health program has raised the concern of some attorneys, especially given the extremely sensitive nature of private health information.

The rumored program would involve users sharing certain health information with Facebook, which would then be used to connect the users to a “support community” of other users suffering from the same illness or condition. The idea is similar to other websites dedicated to putting people in touch with each other to openly discuss their health struggles. It is also likely spurred on by the recent success of Facebook’s organ donor program. The organ donor program directs users on how to become organ donors in their state and then allows them to share their registration on their profiles. The initiative was a huge success, with hundreds of thousands of users registering to be organ donors within days of its launch. Continue reading