October 23, 2021
Facebook groups users sensitive health data exposed

New FTC Complaint Accuses Facebook of Not Properly Protecting Sensitive Health Data of Users in Closed Groups

A recent complaint filed with the United States Federal Trade Commission claims Facebook failed to protect users’ privacy in Groups…

The FTC has publicly released a complaint, filed last month, which alleges Facebook improperly disclosed sensitive health information about users in closed groups:

“Over an extended period of time, Facebook deceptively solicited patients to use its ‘Groups’ product to share¬†personal health information about their health issues. Facebook has marketed this product as a Personal Health Record. Facebook then leaked to the public health data that those patients uploaded. At least in some¬†cases, this was done contrary to the specific privacy decisions made by Facebook users.”

The complaint goes on to accuse Facebook of using AI to push individuals into joining groups. It also alleges insufficient privacy policies.

FTC Facebook Groups Complaint Alleges Improper Protection of Users’ Sensitive Health Information in Closed Groups

The issue first came to light in July, when certain members of a group for women suffering from a condition known as BRCA discovered sensitive information about participants, such as names and email addresses, were available for bulk download.

About that same time, Facebook enacted changes to stop the practice. The social network likewise its “secret” group option, which are less discoverable.

The complaint, filed by a security researcher and BRCA advocates, along with other parties, argues the social site did not adequately disclose what personal data users share when joining groups.

Facebook might also face a multi-billion dollar fine by the FTC over an alleged 2011 settlement violation.

Ashley Lipman

Ashley Lipman is a super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking.

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