The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets

A Journal investigation finds that one of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet is the business of spying on consumers. First in a series.

Hidden inside Ashley Hayes-Beaty’s computer, a tiny file helps gather personal details about her, all to be put up for sale for a tenth of a penny… One of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found, is the business of spying on Internet users…

…The Journal conducted a comprehensive study that assesses and analyzes the broad array of cookies and other surveillance technology that companies are deploying on Internet users. It reveals that the tracking of consumers has grown both far more pervasive and far more intrusive than is realized by all but a handful of people in the vanguard of the industry…

…Healthline says it doesn’t let advertisers track users around the Internet who have viewed sensitive topics such as HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders and impotence. The company does let advertisers track people with bipolar disorder, overactive bladder and anxiety, according to its marketing materials.

Targeted ads can get personal. Last year, Julia Preston, a 32-year-old education-software designer in Austin, Texas, researched uterine disorders online. Soon after, she started noticing fertility ads on sites she visited. She now knows she doesn’t have a disorder, but still gets the ads.

Switch To Digital Medical Records Raises Concerns

Watch the Video of these interviews and read the full story HERE.

OAKLAND, Calif. — At his high-rise medical office in Oakland, orthopedic surgeon David Chang recently switched from those familiar but cumbersome paper medical files to digital records, making the change ahead of a federal requirement that goes into effect for all medical providers in 2014.

Chang now has a private company store his patients’ records electronically.

“Not only was it free – which was fantastic – but it saved me time,” said Chang.

That company is Practice Fusion in San Francisco. It’s part of a booming industry in electronic medical records software. Its service is free to some 30,000 doctors. KTVU discovered the reason the service is free is because the company legally sells the patient medical information it collects. Buyers include drug companies, medical insurers and others. They can get it if they say it’s for research…

…Some were opposed to such wholesale distribution of patient information.

“This is a nightmare. This is a nightmare. It’s nothing we’ve ever seen before in medicine,” said patient privacy rights advocate Dr. Deborah Peel.

Peel she said many patients and doctors don’t know the federal government quietly eliminated patients’ privacy rights for electronic records.

“It’s a free-for-all. It’s the wild west,” said Peel…

…Dr. Peel said new technology, for as little as five dollars a year, could protect your privacy and allow you to opt out of research databases. Privacy advocates said concerned patients need to lobby their lawmakers now.

Re-Identification. From Netflix to Health Records.

Today’s NY Times story points out the FACT that is very easy to re-identify supposedly “de-identified” information. Singer starts with how the Netflix “de-identified” data base was proven to be re-identifiable and moves on to describe Latanya Sweeney’s famous re-identification of the medical records of Gov Weld.

See the NY Times Article: When 2+2 Equals a Privacy Question

DNA profiles blocked from public access

The National Institutes of Health quietly blocked public access to databases of patient DNA profiles after learning of a study that found the genetic information may not be as anonymous as previously believed, The Times has learned.

Institute officials took the unusual step Monday and removed two databases on its public website. The databases contained the genetic information of more than 60,000 cooperating patients. Scientists began posting the information publicly eight months ago to help further medical research.