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Facebook Can See What Ails You

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It has emerged that Facebook, along with three other third-party companies, are being fed data from the NHS Choices website regarding what information people are accessing.

The issue came to light following a blog posting from Mischa Tuffield, a developer at Garlik, a company that specializes in prevention of identity theft. Mischa’s curiosity was roused when he saw the Facebook ‘Like’ button on the Choices website. Following investigations he uncovered that four third-party companies were being fed information from the site.

The issue was brought to the intention of MP Tom Watson who wrote a letter to health minister Andrew Lansley stating: “I write to you to express my concern that the NHS is allowing Google, Facebook and others to track your http://www.nhs.uk/ browsing habits, regardless of the fact that people use the page to seek medical advice.”

If a user has signed into Facebook account, they {Facebook} are told every time one of their users has accessed one of the conditions pages on the site, whether or not they have clicked the ‘Like’ button. Analysis sites Google Analytics, WebTrends and addthiscdn.com are also fed information about people who access the site.

The NHS has said the onus is on Facebook users to monitor their own privacy settings. Facebook confirmed they get information about logged-in members who visit the NHS site. If a person is logged into Facebook and 'likes' a page on NHS Choices, the person will be targeted with adverts that are relevant to the page a spokesperson for Facebook said.

There are obviously a number of issues thrown up by this revelation. One is the amount of information being fed to Facebook without their users’ knowledge. Another is why the NHS has a Like button on its Choices website in the first place. And finally even if Facebook has this information, they cannot share it with any third parties without your consent anyway so is there any real harm in it?

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