Facebook Changes to Be Implemented to Protect the Privacy of Health Support Group Members


Facebook is implementing a few changes to Facebook Group Communities talking about medical conditions. This decision was deemed necessary considering the complaint on Facebook Groups that even though it is being presented as an exclusive and confidential community, third parties are able to access the information of health group members and use it for advertising.

A complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission in January alleged that the information shared within private FB health groups was being shared to third parties. Numerous health support community members claimed that they were targeted by advertisers sending them offers to products and services related to health conditions which they only spoke of in exclusive, private FB health groups.

People who have medical issues join the groups to find information and assistance. The groups were created to assist people with different health conditions, including mental health problems, cancer and substance abuse disorder. FB Group members talk about information and facts openly trusting that the group is private. Nevertheless, it was found that advertising companies could get hold of the group members. Even the public is able to know as well who are members of the health FB groups.

Facebook was reported as deceiving patients to become members of closed and confidential health communities yet the patients’ personal health information (PHI) were being used for gaining advertising money.

The change, which Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announced at Facebook’s annual developer conference is Facebook’s response to the complaint. The change is going to allow users in health groups to post information anonymously. The FB groups are going to be given the special designation of Health Support Group. Thus, these groups will be treated differently from other Facebook Groups. Members of the group can have the option to ask the group administrators to publish information and facts on their behalf. To do so means a user’s Facebook profile or name will not be connected to the posts.

Though this is a good change and will allow members to have confidence in sharing their comments, a group administrator could still link a comment to a particular user and information discussed in the groups could still be employed for advertising tactics.

HIPAA Rules don’t cover Facebook. Moreover, Facebook is not considered as a HIPAA-covered entity’s business associate, so it doesn’t need to comply with the HIPAA’s Privacy and Security Rules. To protect consumer privacy, a federal law is required to prohibit data gathering, usage of users’ sensitive information and doing deceptive practices by social media or tech firms.

The issue discussed is not the only concern relating to health data that have come about lately. It was likewise learned that the disclosure of user’s information by third-party health apps with Facebook was without proper user consent. The issue was exposed in a Wall Street Journal report and many deemed it as a serious privacy breach. Facebook responded that its policies strictly do not permit app developers to disclose sensitive health information of users with Facebook. App developers should make sure to protect sensitive data and not share it with Facebook.