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Is your on-line health data safe?

In a chilling reminder that everything you post on line has a chance of becoming more public than you'd intended, the Wall Street Journal this week reported on a common practice called "scraping," in which companies cull social media sites and other Internet-based forums for personal data to supply to interested corporations and other concerns.

Data scraping is nothing new, and there are steps Web site managers can take to keep it at bay. But the WSJ story tells of an instance in which a site on which users shared deeply personal information about their psychological, emotional and health conditions and medications they took to manage those conditions was scraped, that personal data collected by the media-research firm Nielsen Co. Neilsen has since ceased scraping the site.

Scraping can be done automatically through programs designed to scour scores of sites at a time or by human beings scraping by hand, as it were. As a consumer using the Internet, there's not much you can do to protect yourself against scraping, other than to be aware that it goes on and to be thoughtful about what kind of information you post.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | October 14, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Social Media  
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Comments

I have already told my health care providers that I wish to "opt out" of any electronic record keeping for my medical records. If they can't allow me to opt out, they won't be providing me with any health care. NOTHING that is on line is safe from disclosure, and the sooner we realize this, the better off we'll be.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 14, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

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Posted by: oneshopping26 | October 14, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

@WashingtonDame, considering that HIPAA mandates electronic formats of PHI data. Good luck getting your health care outside of the US. Because all US health providers are using electronic forms of PHI.

It's also not the subject of this article. This article is discussing data mining of social media sites and linking the results to individuals.

Posted by: SpecTP | October 14, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

In addition, EFF showed in their http://panopticlick.eff.org/ project that users can be potentially identified from their typing pattern regardless of their method to obfuscate the detection. So coupled with the PII leaks from social media site, the data mining, there's really very little real anonymity.

Posted by: SpecTP | October 14, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

What ou fail to mention is EVERY ONE of the vermin that collects personal information is based in India. And those same companies often only use "scraping" as a cover. They *host* databases for healthcare plans. In fact, if you work at *any* company that is self insured, your healthcare data, credit history, everything known about you AND EVERY DEPENDENT is collected and collated in an Indian database. That information, and Congress and officials are well aware of this, is used to determine layoff lists. An employee with a sick child or spouse, with any costs exceeding the trigger dollar amount for your employer, ends up on a first to be laid off list. I know this because I am a DBA and did it, in this country, until we complained about it. Then, our jobs were "outsourced" to India.

Posted by: mibrooks27 | October 14, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

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