How Far Is Too Far? Facebook’s Quest for Medical Data Sharing

Apparently, Facebook’s not just about poking and stalking anymore.

Though one of the forerunners of the best technology these days, Facebook has been in the news, not for its most recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, and not for an endearing “yay new emoticon” reason either.

The News

According to a CNBC report (, Facebook had asked some major US hospitals to share their patient’s data, “for research purposes”. Of course, the shared data will be made so patients remain anonymous. This way no person’s privacy is violated.

The Details

The proposal was to combine the patient details gotten from hospitals, such as hospital visits and drug prescriptions, with each individual’s Facebook profile, like their age and whether or not they have close friends and family who check on them. When combined, the best gadgets can allow doctors make more informed decisions regarding their patients, such as whether or not to discharge them alone from the hospital after a surgical procedure.

User Facebook data might also reveal whether or not they need a visit from the nurse, on the off chance they haven’t been receiving messages from friends and loved ones from their Facebook account. If English isn’t a person’s first language, it could help the doctor plan appropriately for a more suitable healthcare (e.g non-English-speaking retirement home, or hospital room).

Who Was Responsible

Facebook’s building 8, a sort of secret experiments division, was responsible for this. This particular project was led by Freddi Abnousi, an interventional cardiologist (since cardiovascular diseases are the first target), who was under the purview of Building 8’s head, Regina Dugan.

It’s Privacy Security Plan

Apparently, one of the best technology in computing called “hashing” will be used to match Facebook users to medical records (fingers crossed that it matches Hospital and Facebook data 100% accurately). This way, humans have no means of connecting people to their medical histories. This, they believe should theoretically solve privacy concerns.

What Facebook Didn’t Say About What It Will Do with Your Data

But what about all that harvested data? Well, Facebook “promised” that they would only share individual data with the medical community, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Unless “medical community” involves Big Pharma. So that Drug companies no longer need to convince doctors to prescribe their drugs, they could just advertise directly to a person’s Facebook page.

Basically, collected data can be used in ways many people can never fully anticipate. This is the information age after all, where personal data is worth its weight in gold. And so, who is to say harvested data won’t end up falling in the wrong hands. If Yahoo hacking is any indication, hackers seem intent on penetrating the impenetrable.

Why This Matters Now

Obviously, concerns over the Cambridge Analytica scandal are still fresh in people’s minds. As well as the considerations regarding whether Big Tech firms like Facebook need government oversight. Any project that has the potential to harvest any more user data is bound to cause a stir, regardless of the benefits.

Other Concerns

While the health sector is notoriously known for keeping patient medical history Secret and there are both state and Federal laws in place to ensuring they respect this privacy. Facebook, on the other hand, has almost no regulation that will prevent it from acting without concern for its user’s privacy, ergo share user data with Cambridge Analytica

Furthermore, Facebook has in the past, during best gadget reviews, been known to have conducted research on people, by using their news feeds to find out what made them sad or happy. And they did all this by compiling hundreds of thousands of data without their user’s consent. So, is this something they can be trusted to do ethically?

Are There Benefits Though?

Cathleen Gates, the Interim CEO of the American College of Cardiology said “for the first time in history, people are sharing their personal information online in ways that could. improve their health”

So clearly there could be benefits gotten from this Facebook initiative. But is the cost worth it?

Moving Forward

Regardless, Facebook has put a pause on this thought. And apparently, it was only in the planning phase. They also say, of course, that they were yet to receive or share any user data. So perhaps there was some merit to the Cambridge Analytica scandal after all. Because this could easily have been a done deal without much public debate.