Nine times out of ten, if you’re looking something up online that is medical-related, you’re probably going to be reading at least one link from WebMD. They are consistently at the top of the search rankings and they do provide useful, easy to read information. However, one’s privacy online while searching has been a bit of a pressing issue, and more people are expressing their concerns about how their internet fingerprint is being used by companies.
Normally, when you give details about your health status, the questions that you ask, and your interest in particular health information, is all protected in a hospital and doctor confidentiality agreement. Websites like health.com or WebMD can actually say that they do not give personal information, like your name and location to other companies, however, they do freely share non-personal information, which can be correlated with other 3rd party information to identify the user.
If this sounds a bit shady, well, now you’ve got it. And yes, we are moving quickly towards a dystopian police state. With all the “violation of privacy” stories in the news recently, this can be upsetting to hear. But so can living in the festering lie that is societal “normalcy,” so, chew on that for a second while the government looks up your recent bowel movement activity.
Most people might feel embarrassed if these health search habits were discovered by a third party company and targeted ads for hemorrhoid treatment and vaginal rhinoplasty began to pop up while your boytoy checks his Facebook.
But consumer confidence is key, so online advertisers have already started trying to find ways to fix this security problem. Establishing digital ad services that put the power back into consumer hands by asking them if it’s okay to collect and share information based on viewing habits on these health websites is just one small step in the right direction.
Either way, the sad truth is that no secret is truly that, and that anyone with a modicum of computer knowhow can and surely is accessing your prized check-up history with a fine-toothed comb. And they know your teeth are small now, too.