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Facebook sent doctor to collect patient info from hospitals

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | April 10, 2018
Business Affairs Health IT
It seems that your sensitive medical data may be the next thing Facebook want to profit from.

As recently as within the last month, the social media behemoth was talking with hospitals and other medical groups to cough up info on some of their patients, according to CNBC, which broke the story.

The concept was to make profiles of people with their medical status and merge it with the data Facebook already has on them.

The medical data sharing push was spearheaded by interventional cardiologist Freddy Abnousi, according to the news site, whose LinkedIn profile stated that he leads “top-secret projects."

The info sought by the info purveyor includes things like illnesses and prescriptions – intended for research use and to be anonymized. The goal was to help health care facilities better match patient with treatment, a goal of individualized care.

The proposed project was tabled when the Cambridge Analytica scandal exploded, and raised public alarm over the way Facebook was conducting itself.

"This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared, or analyzed anyone's data," a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.

Organizations that Facebook approached to share data included the Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology.

The Cambridge Analytica misuse of Facebook data has now impacted as many as 87 million users, the company recently advised, along with an announcement of new data sharing and control policies to cut down the chances of further mishandling of information.

The initial target of the tabled project was to be cardiovascular disease.

Facebook provided CNBC with a quote from Cathleen Gates, the interim CEO of the American College of Cardiology, to address the potential advantages of combining the data.

"As part of its mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health, the American College of Cardiology has been engaged in discussions with Facebook around the use of anonymized Facebook data, coupled with anonymized ACC data, to further scientific research on the ways social media can aid in the prevention and treatment of heart disease – the number one cause of death in the world. This partnership is in the very early phases, as we work on both sides to ensure privacy, transparency, and scientific rigor. No data has been shared between any parties."

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