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FTC fines GoodRx for sharing consumer health data with advertisers

FTC fines GoodRx for sharing consumer health data with advertisers

The Federal Trade Commission has fined GoodRx 1.5 million dollars for sharing the private health data of its customers with other third parties without their consent. The company agreed to a provision that will ban them from sharing consumer health data with third parties for advertising. Consumer Reports and Gizmodo first discovered in 2020 that GoodRx was sharing private health information of its customers with more than 20 companies, and that the FTC has now filed a complaint.

In a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on Wednesday, the FTC accuses GoodRx of violating its own privacy promises by failing to notify those using its services that their private health information, such as their medical conditions and prescription medications, was being disclosed to third parties.

According to the complaint, GoodRx shared consumer health data with a number of companies, despite promising users that their information wouldn’t be shared with advertisers or other third parties. It is alleged that this information was used to target GoodRx’s users with personalized advertisements based on their medications and health. The online pharmacy was accused of misrepresenting its compliance.

In its response to the FTC, GoodRx said that it agreed to the settlement to avoid the time and expense of litigation.

GoodRx said that they used vendor technologies to advertise in a way that they believed was compliant with all applicable regulations. The online pharmacy says the settlement focuses on an old issue that was addressed three years ago. The Backlight tool shows that Good continued to share consumer information with advertising companies and has since added new advertising partners since the original investigation in 2020.

The legality of advertising practices within the health and medical industry could be in danger if the FTC order is approved by the federal court.

The director of technology policy at Consumer Reports said that health apps and websites have been giving away personal data for years without consequence. Companies have to understand that sharing customer data without clear permission will lead to investigations and fines, now that this case has been a turning point.

Across health apps and services, sharing consumer data with third parties without consent is fairly common. This is the first time that the FTC has tried to enforce the Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires companies to inform consumers of unauthorized access to their personal health records. The Health Breach Notification Rule could apply to consumer tech that is not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, such as fitness trackers and health or diet apps.

The director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said that digital health companies and mobile apps shouldn’t cash in on consumers’ sensitive and personally identifiable health information. The FTC will use its legal authority to protect American consumers from misuse and illegal exploitation of their sensitive data.

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The original article can be found here.

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