Facebook Starts Blocking Sensitive Medical Data due to Privacy Concern

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Facebook Starts Blocking Sensitive Medical Data due to Privacy Concern

After investigating, New York officials said that Facebook has already taken the action of blocking sensitive health information that third-party apps had been sharing with the social network in violation of its own rules.

According to a report wrote on the New York financial services department on Thursday, app makers put data into a Facebook analytics tool that contained medical diagnoses and whether users were pregnant.

Financial services superintendent Linda Lacewell states the complex situation that  the app developers and websites are instructed not to share medical, financial, and other sensitive personal consumer data, however, there are no steps to obey this rule.

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"By continuing to do business with app developers that broke the rule, Facebook put itself in a position to profit from sensitive data that it was never supposed to receive in the first place."

Facebook gets user information from apps regularly through a tool that creates conditions for developers to get a free analysis of data and then find possible app improvements, according to the investigation launched last year.

A Facebook spokeswoman said in response to an AFP inquiry that their policies prohibit sharing sensitive health information and it was not something they want.

Also, he added that they had improved their efforts to detect and block potentially sensitive data and were doing more to educate advertisers on how to set-up and use their business tools.

Investigators cited the example of a Flo Health app for menstruation and fertility tracking used by more than 100 million people informed Facebook each time a user logged starting her period or noted an intention to get pregnant.

Talking about this situation, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that large internet companies should take responsibility for protecting the privacy of their consumers.

After investigating, inspectors concluded these sharings violated Facebook policy but they do not go unchecked by the California-based internet giant.

Besides, Facebook created a list of terms blocked by its systems and has been adjusting AI to filter sensitive data more intelligently in the analytics tool, according to the report.

The blocklist listed more than 70,000 medical terms included diseases, bodily functions, medical conditions along with real-world locations such as mental health centers, the report said.

The report also agreed on a data privacy law proposed in the state by the governor that would expressly protect health, biometric, and location data as well as create a Consumer Data Privacy Bill of Rights.

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