Healthcare Data: Privacy or Commodity?

I thought I’d seen just about everything. Just when I imagined the bar could go no lower in terms of online privacy, I was in for a major surprise. What was I thinking?

Sure, I knew that my footprints across the internet were being tracked and sold by the large social media companies like any other commodity. We are just sacks of potatoes when it comes to our online activity. The data is sucked up and sold on the open market. Hell, this is so simple that US intelligence agencies have started buying data on US citizens directly from these vendors. Sure is easier than having to get a court order for a little domestic spying. That is a win-win if there ever was one, except for the suckers and marks that are the target of these grifters. Not sure if you believe me? Well then check out this link.

Addiction Medicine Data

Just when I thought the invasion of privacy couldn’t get any worse, it got worse. In my naivety I assumed going to websites for healthcare information might actually be private. If someone had an addiction monkey on their back, and was looking online for treatment options, it might be nice to assume identifying information was not being collected and sold. Going online for opioid treatment information and expecting privacy? Guess again.

Welcome to the online marketplace for data collected for those looking online for addiction and recovery services. The Opioid Policy Institute just released Report 2.1 which documents in horrifying detail what is going on. Interested in knowing what is going on behind the curtain? I suggest reading that report which goes into great investigative detail.

This entire opioid industry is one big nasty business. Everyone is making money from the pharmaceutical marketers to Big Pharma and then on to the pharmacy chains. Everyone gets a slice of the pie. But wait, that’s not all. If someone develops an addiction, and seeks online resources to help, let’s gather and sell that data so we can squeeze a little more money out of the vicious cycle.

Read the Fine Print

At the theme parks they call this technique, “exit through the gift shop.” After the sunburned tourists have enjoyed the ride at the Haunted Hotel or sailed through the Pirates of the Caribbean just push the happy campers through the gift shop. One last opportunity to monetize before the prey escapes.

This is all happening in plain view. Who in their right mind would give informed consent to abandon their healthcare data privacy rights so someone could make money? Maybe somewhere on these websites there is implied consent given but you gotta know it will be in a tiny font. Just like the old country lawyers would say, “The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.”


Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash