For Sale Cheap: Your Private Medical Information

Have you ever gone to a party and had the urge to peek inside your host’s medicine cabinet? (Neither have I!) Imagine what could be of interest in there. For those nosy souls who are tempted, you don’t even have to attend a party! It’s all for sale online. Bloomberg published an article about how Big Data is snooping in your medicine cabinet and selling the information to marketers. Here’s the gory details:

Dan Abate doesn’t have diabetes nor is he aware of any obvious link to the disease. Try telling that to data miners.

The 42-year-old information technology worker’s name recently showed up in a database of millions of people with “diabetes interest” sold by Acxiom Corp. (ACXM), one of the world’s biggest data brokers. One buyer, data reseller Exact Data, posted Abate’s name and address online, along with 100 others, under the header Sample Diabetes Mailing List. It’s just one of hundreds of medical databases up for sale to marketers.

The type of information and databases peoples’ names are showing up on would be amusing if it wasn’t so serious. Some database lists for sale include diagnosis, including cancer, depression, autism, attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrigs disease. One directory is called “Aching and Ailing,” another directory is called “Suffering Seniors.” There’s a lot of stuff that Suffering Seniors apparently want to buy! Here’s the promo:

Suffering Seniors is the perfect list for mailers targeting the ailing elderly who will be most responsive to their direct mail campaigns.

These senior citizens with ailments are perfect prospects for a variety of offers including health and medical products and services, prescription and over-the-counter medications, pain relievers, aging, holistic and non-traditional remedies, self-improvement, beauty and cosmetics, insurance, retirement, assisted living, financial services, subscriptions, catalogs, books, magazines, credit cards, cable TV and Internet, investments, fundraising campaigns, clubs and associations, support groups, counseling, apparel and accessories, computer software and hardware, peripherals, telecommunications and wireless, household goods and furnishings, home improvement, security systems, lawn and garden care, music and entertainment, electronics, automobiles, travel, nostalgic items and collectibles, antiques, and much more.

Names tend to sell for $0.15 cents apiece, which can be broken down in to income, geographic locations and ethnicity for an additional fee. The data comes from a variety of sources, including retail purchases, registrations, sweepstakes, surveys (never fill out a survey online. They don’t want your opinion; they want your information).

Source: NCPA Health Blog

Devon Herrick, Ph.D., is a preeminent expert on 21st century medicine, including the evolution of Internet-based medicine, consumer driven health care and key changes in the global health market. He was among the first health policy analysts to identify and publish in-depth policy reports on consumerism in health care, including: medical tourism, telemedicine, retail clinics, concierge medical practices, cosmetic medicine, “shopping for drugs” strategies and value-based health plan design. He has researched personal technology and medical aps that empowers patients to better manage their medical needs.