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.
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