Facebook tried to access and match medical data

Dec 2013
Beware of watermelons
You’d think recent events might have dulled Facebook’s rapacious lust for data. But now comes news, from CNBC, that The Social Network™ tried to acquire access to patients’ medical records.

The network’s report says Facebook approached “several major U.S. hospitals to share anonymized data about their patients, such as illnesses and prescription info, for a proposed research project.”

Facebook apparently planned to use hashing to keep its users’ records and hospital data discrete, but intended to match profiles in order to suggest approaches to care.

Health care is mighty expensive to deliver, so data that makes it more effective is welcome. And if a timely intervention can save or prolong a life, that’s priceless.

But Facebook has repeatedly blundered when caring for data, with yesterday’s admission it allowed years of utterly-foreseeable profile scraping through automated phone number and email address lookups just the latest extraordinary SNAFU. The prospect of medical data in the company’s hands is therefore extremely worrying.