Goodbye Internet privacy and online health searches?

KEY TAKEAWAY: Drug companies need to clarify their privacy policies very quickly and should THINK very carefully about buying data that users could see as an invasion of their privacy.

The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to repeal Internet privacy protections that were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in the final days of the Obama administration. The Senate voted along party lines to undo the rules last week. The resolution now goes to Trump’s desk. The White House said Tuesday it “strongly supports” the repeal. How will this affect online health seekers?

At first, online health seekers probably won’t notice that their ISP’s can sell their browsing data, but once they start seeing ads and suggestions based on past website visits or searches you can bet that some are going to upset.

Imagine, if you will a woman who wants more information on postmenopausal intimacy.  She searches online and reads information on several sites, then later that day she is being served ads for prescription and OTC supplements targeted at postmenopausal women.  Could anything be more intrusive?

Drug marketers spend a lot of money trying to get traffic to their websites, but once the privacy laws are gone users’ data is up for sale to the highest bidders and if you think people won’t notice you’re living in fantasy land.

Late last year, in research, we heard several people say that they would not follow a pharma brand or health group on facebook because they were concerned about privacy.   I can still remember one woman talk about how she had visited a couple of MS group pages and was being served ads, on facebook, about MS products and groups.  She was highly offended and she deleted her facebook account because of, what she saw, was an  invasion of privacy.

Dr Internet has been a great resource for patients, but if their privacy is going to be subject to bidders w could see a dramatic decline in online health seeking behavior.  Stand by for a lot more apps and browser add-ones that allow anonymous web surfing.