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Research Letter: Privacy threats when seeking online health information

Some health websites share user search terms: study
2013-07-08  (Reuters Health)
Abstract by Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Some health media websites share users’ search terms with outside companies that track consumers and target advertising, a new study reveals.

Dr. Marco Huesch, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, used interception software and found seven out of 20 popular health sites passed search information to third parties.

… U.S. government sites including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration web pages did not share search information, nor did four out of five sites directed toward doctors, Dr. Huesch found.

But other popular consumer websites, such as Men’s Health and Health.com, did share search terms with third parties, according to findings published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Dr. Viswanath said people searching for medical information online should not assume they are anonymous and take privacy for granted. They can be extra careful, he said, by sticking to U.S. government sites for health-related searches, for example.  …

Huesch MD
Privacy Threats When Seeking Online Health Information
JAMA Intern Med. 2013
doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.7795

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