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Why That Pain Reliever Ad Is Following You Around The Web

A new study of 20 health-related sites demonstrated that many contain tracking elements and/or leak search terms to third-party companies, providing data that "could [help] build up a very powerful document with all of your medical conditions."

What’s the Latest Development?


More proof that the Internet knows all your business: A study of 20 popular health-related sites revealed that all of them contain at least one method to track individual user activity, and some share that activity with third-party advertising firms, which then use it to send targeted ads. University of Southern California professor and study author Marco D. Huesch used freely-available Web debug tools to identify site behavior. The study was published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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What’s the Big Idea?

While Huesch understands the purpose of targeted advertising, he believes the use of health-related data for that purpose presents several potentially dangerous issues, not the least of which is the creating of user profiles containing “all of your medical conditions [and] the drugs you’re taking” along with other personal information. Worse, there’s the potential for what he calls “virtual redlining” in which healthy people receive “better” ads than sick people. Government-imposed privacy regulations that are now a common part of health care in the US exempt online targeted advertising, and the practice is growing despite criticism from privacy advocates.

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Read it at The Verge


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