Report: HealthCare.gov offers medical information to "dozens" of data brokers
The insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act leaves its visitors' personal information available to numerous data collection agencies, the Associated Press reports, adding yet another tally mark against the infamously troubled website.
Data collectors are said to be able to gather information about an insurance shopper's age, income, and medical history, including if they're currently pregnant or a smoker. The Associated Press says "dozens" of these groups operate on the HealthCare.gov site.
It might seem strange that an official government website feels the need to provide information about its visitors to scores of companies which profit from exploiting that data to inform their intrusive advertisements.
But this isn't the first time an official insurance marketplace has sparked concerns about its shoppers' privacy. As I reported in March 2014, New York's health insurance marketplace exposed the email addresses -- and therefore in many cases the names -- of at least 100 shoppers.
How are people supposed to trust these marketplaces if they're providing medical information to a large number of independent companies or are sending emails to shoppers without hiding the addresses of everyone who received the message?
HealthCare.gov's supporters can't afford to have that question asked. The website has been heralded as an example of the federal government's inability to create anything without spending ridiculous sums of money and ultimately failing to achieve its goals.
President Obama is expected to call for increased privacy protections during his State of the Union address later tonight. He's currently planning to focus on consumers and students -- based on this report, however, he might want to start by explaining how he can talk about protecting privacy when a government site is working with data brokers.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]