Revealed: NHS websites are handing out YOUR health secrets to the likes of ... trends now

Revealed: NHS websites are handing out YOUR health secrets to the likes of ... trends now
Revealed: NHS websites are handing out YOUR health secrets to the likes of ... trends now

Revealed: NHS websites are handing out YOUR health secrets to the likes of ... trends now

NHS websites are routinely handing people's health secrets to the likes of Google and Facebook without users' consent, an investigation has revealed.

The tech giants are harvesting the browsing habits of users and using the information to build detailed profiles for each visitor, through which they could target adverts.

The pages viewed are likely to indicate the medical conditions a patient is living with, such as cancer, gambling addiction or more intimate issues like erectile dysfunction, researchers say.

If visited on the same computer as used to access social media accounts, it would even allow 'Big Tech' to build up a complete picture of the user including name, age and address.

Websites track users' browsing habits by placing cookies, or identifiers, on their computer while they surf the internet.

Big Tech companies such as Google or Facebook are harvesting the browsing habits of users and using the information to build detailed profiles for each visitor. This can be used for advertising

Big Tech companies such as Google or Facebook are harvesting the browsing habits of users and using the information to build detailed profiles for each visitor. This can be used for advertising

Under data protection laws, websites should inform users that they and third-parties are placing these files on their computer and give them the opportunity to refuse. Usually this comes in the form of a pop-up box asking them to 'accept cookies', something that has become increasingly familiar and frustrating to millions.

But new research by digital agency 7DOTS found most health and social care providers in the UK are breaching these regulations.

The company searched public Care Quality Commission records and interrogated the websites of more than 3,500 signed-up organisations, such as hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries.

It then checked whether these sites gave visitors the option to opt out of tracking and whether it honoured these requests.

Analysis revealed 59 per cent of the websites were not compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Under data protection laws, websites should inform users that they and third-parties are placing these files on their computer and give them the opportunity to refuse. Usually this comes in the form of a pop-up box asking them to ‘accept cookies’ (file image)

Under data protection laws, websites should inform users that they and third-parties are placing these files on their computer and give them the opportunity to refuse. Usually this comes in the form of a pop-up box asking them to 'accept cookies' (file image)

Even among the 219 providers that used reputable cookie consent management platforms, 63 per cent ignored opt out requests.

Researchers pointed the finger at web editors who failed to properly configure their sites, rather than anything nefarious, but still expected sensitive health issues to be treated more carefully.

Cookies from Google Analytics were found on 77 per cent of non-compliant sites. Other common vendors included Facebook, Google and YouTube.

GDPR imposes stringent rules on organisations and it is designed to ensure the responsible handling of personal data.

But 7DOTS said the 'widespread compliance failure' raises

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