CANCER: For-Profit Web Sites Spark Privacy Concerns
For-profit cancer Web sites are raising concerns about medical privacy, the Wall Street Journal reports. Competing with the established not-for- profit sites, these commercial newcomers -- including Oncology.com, cancerpage.com and cancerfacts.com -- are claiming to offer "far more sophisticated services." But these services come at a high price, forcing many sites to "run ads and enter partnerships with sponsors." Companies also are asking patients for personal information, which is sold to advertisers and businesses "used by the Web site to create products to sell back to patients." Martin Murphy, editor of the cancer journal Oncologist, said that this practice "raises some real concerns about confidentiality," already a hot topic within the industry. "There should be the seal of the confessional when it comes to anonymity, and no information about the patient should even be kept (by the Web site), let alone passed along" to marketers, he said, adding, "[W]hen a site is for-profit, I worry that there is potential for really exploiting people who are at their most vulnerable." But Oncology.com financial backer Michael Milken and others "see opportunities for e-commerce targeting cancer patients." Milken said that he "thinks cancer patients would give up some privacy in return for information targeted specifically to their needs." But patient advocate Barbara Lackritz disagreed, predicting that cancer patients will rely on the most helpful and informative sites and "won't be particularly receptive to advertising pushing products that they think we want" (Landro, 4/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.