Facebook Approached Hospitals To Request Patients’ Data

Amid an outcry about Facebook’s privacy practices, a report suggests the company sent a doctor on a secret mission to ask hospitals to share patient data.


It is no longer a secret that Facebook is neck-deep in a data breach controversy. Now a recent report suggests that prior to this monumental revelation, the company was working on another plan of extracting users’ data — one that would make even the most prolific of posters horrified about the lack of respect for privacy.

The social media platform reportedly was in talks with top hospitals and other medical groups about a proposal to share data about the social networks of their most vulnerable patients.

The idea behind the venture was to compare the data, which included prescription information and illnesses, with its own data that it collected from users in order to flag users that may need hospital care.

As recently as last month, the company was talking to several health organizations, including Stanford Medical School and the American College of Cardiology, about signing the data-sharing agreement.

According to the report, the company wanted to facilitate the medical professionals about best-care practices by using the blend of hospital data with social data. The data collected would have been completely anonymous and only available for medical research.

Some of the health experts showed faith in Facebook’s proposed project.

“As part of its mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health, the American College of Cardiology has been engaged in discussions with Facebook around the use of anonymized Facebook data, coupled with anonymized ACC data, to further scientific research on the ways social media can aid in the prevention and treatment of heart disease — the No. 1 cause of death in the world,” said Cathleen Gates, the interim CEO of the American College of Cardiology.

Regardless of the fact how good the company’s intentions were, it was bound to raise concerns about the massive amount of data Facebook collects and how it can be used in ways users never expected.

Predictably, the proposal was paused after Facebook revealed that Cambridge Analytica improperly took data from at least 50 million users. 

"This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared or analyzed anyone's data," said a Facebook spokesperson.

Considering how Facebook is still embroiled in data breach scandal with CEO Mark Zuckerberg yet to testify at congressional hearings about data privacy, it is highly unlikely it will further jeopardize its position by asking health professionals to hand over patient data.

Banner/Thumbnail: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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