Data Mining and Medical Privacy

Concerned about your medical privacy?  Then you may want to stop using your credit card or shopping online.  Turns out the ads you click, the size of clothes you buy online, and the fast food restaurants where you pay with a credit card  can create a health profile that is extremely helpful in assisting marketing agencies determine how healthy (or unhealthy) you are.

hipaa11389187While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compels your doctor, pharmacist, insurance agent, and local hospital to go to great lengths to protect the privacy of your medical records, it does nothing to protect you from yourself. Whenever you search the internet or use your credit card, information about you is being stored, compiled, and made available to marketing organizations.

The make and model of the car you finance, the types of clothes you purchase online, and the kinds of restaurants you “Like” on Facebook, when run through a computer algorithm, paint a fairly accurate picture of your health.  This information is extremely helpful to drug research companies and others, who are willing to pay a handsome sum to target people who fit their market profile.

Although the Federal Trade Commission receives hundreds of complaints from citizens upset at being targeted by telemarketing firms who surprisingly know quite bit about their health, there really isn’t much the government can do.  While people are quick to demand that others protect their medical privacy, they often don’t realize that in today’s marketplace of credit cards, online shopping, and social media, they are often the biggest violators of their own medical information security.

telem1This is certainly becoming a brave new world.  We should all be a little more careful about what we buy with credit cards or purchase online, lest we end up telling truths about ourselves we really don’t want telemarketers to know.

(For more on data mining and your medical privacy, see: “Data Mining to Recruit Sick People”).

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