WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) called on three telehealth companies to protect their patients’ sensitive health data. The senators expressed their concern over reports that these online health companies are tracking and sharing their customers’ personally identifiable health data with social media platforms for advertising purposes. These reports come despite company promises to prospective patients that their user data, including information about mental health and addiction treatment, will remain confidential.
“Recent reports highlight how your company shares users’ contact information and health care data that should be confidential…this information is reportedly sent to advertising platforms, along with the information needed to identify users. This data is extremely personal, and it can be used to target advertisements for services that may be unnecessary or potentially harmful physically, psychologically, or emotionally,” the senators wrote to Cerebral Chief Executive Officer Dr. David Mou, Monument Chief Executive Officer Mike Russell, and Workit Health Chief Executive Officer Robin Ann McIntosh.
“Telehealth…has become a popular and effective way for many Americans to receive care. One fifth of the U.S. population resides in rural or medically-underserved communities where access to virtual care is vital. This access should not come at the cost of exposing personal and identifiable information to the world’s largest advertising ecosystems,” the senators continued.
As Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar has long led efforts to protect consumers’ privacy, especially regarding personal health data.
Last August, she and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation to ban the use of Americans’ personal health data for commercial advertising. The Stop Commercial Use of Health Data Act would enhance consumers’ privacy by restricting companies from profiting off of personally identifiable health data for advertising purposes and allowing consumers greater access to and ownership over their personal health information.
Last May, Klobuchar and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect the data privacy of women seeking reproductive health care.
The text of the letters to Cerebral, Monument, and Workit Health are available here.