WEB PRIVACY I: FTC Launches Review of Policies at Health Sites
The Federal Trade Commission has begun an inquiry into whether some health care Web sites are improperly giving personal information about site visitors to third parties, the Wall Street Journal reports. The review was prompted by a study published last month by the California Healthcare Foundation that found some e-health sites violate their stated privacy policies or share consumer information -- including e-mail addresses -- with other organizations such as advertisers. HealthCentral.com and iVillage.com are among the companies the FTC has contacted to inquire about their information-sharing practices. The agency reportedly has asked about the sites' sharing of information with, among others, the Internet advertising agency DoubleClick, which is the subject of a separate FTC investigation (see story #5).
In response to problems concerning privacy and other ethical issues, a number of Internet health care firms have formed an association called the Hi-Ethics Alliance to deal with such concerns. Representatives of many of the companies recently met in Washington, D.C. with regulators from the FTC and other government agencies (Guidera/Simpson/Wingfield, 2/18).