Facebook is in hot water in the wake of revelations that Cambridge Analytica gained access to user data inappropriately. Now the social media pioneer admits that, at the same time, it was on the hunt for healthcare data on its own users, having asked hospitals to share information on illness and prescriptions for unnamed patients. Paradoxically, the company says it sought the information in order to help “major U.S. hospitals” identify patients who may need care. While nonhealthcare companies like Amazon have taken a sudden interest in diving into the healthcare pool, Facebook’s efforts may be alarming exactly because of concerns that its data have proven to be less than secure lately, including charges that it may have unwittingly allowed outside parties to influence the 2016 election. Online access to healthcare information has always been a sensitive subject; this is likely to become an even hotter topic as that access becomes more important, with patients moving away from primary care practices where data were more self-contained toward walk-in options like urgent care, where ready access is essential to providing quality care.
Facebook Fesses Up to Asking Hospitals for Patient Data