Something you should be aware of

4 January 2011

If you’re looking up health-related information on NHS Choices, at least four commercial entities will be informed of the fact that you are doing so, and which pages you view.

This includes Facebook, Google Analytics, AddThis and Webtrends.  At least one of these entities, Facebook, uses the information to target advertising based on the pages you viewed at NHS Choices.  So the ads you see displayed on pages you visit subsequently will be modified based on the information that the NHS shares about your browsing history.

This kind of user tracking/targeting happens all the time as one uses the web, of course.  It surprised me, however, that my interaction with a UK government web site would be commercially exploited.  It also appears that the current practice contravenes stated policy, namely the NHS Data Protection Policy.

The matter was reported and is actively discussed by Mischa Tuffield and his readers on his blog: http://mmt.me.uk/blog/2010/11/21/nhs-and-tracking/ (found in the Zen Internet newsletter).

 

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