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Cambridge Analytica Fallout: Facebook Puts Medical Data Sharing Plan On Hold


Following the scandal that has trailed Facebook in the past weeks, the social network has halted its plans to match patients’ data from hospitals to their accounts on Facebook, the BBC reported.

Facebook has faced criticisms since the wake of the scandal with Cambridge Analytica about the improper sharing of users’ private information. This has caused a significant setback and the Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that the social media platform had not made any meaningful revenue in ad sales since the wake of the scandal.

The company had initially planned to collect information from patients in the hospital to match it with their information on the social network, but it is yet to receive any health records.

Christina Farr from CBNC discovered the data sharing proposal. Two anonymous persons informed her that the social network had written proposal letters to health care centres and organisations including Stanford Medical School and the American College of Cardiology.  The idea was to link patients’ hospital records such as their age, ailment or sickness and the number of hospital visits and match them to their Facebook data. 

According to Facebook, the idea behind the project was to help reveal specific details about a patient to help them prescribe a need or help. For instance, one could deduce if a patient had many friends or not to enable the specialist proffer solutions by recommending a private nurse or not. The project research would also determine what language the patient speaks to help plan the person’s care better.

While these reasons may seem valid, it can be argued the social media is a different world entirely and is not the perfect place to determine very salient details like the number of friends one has. One can have 5000 friends on Facebook but could be living a life of solitude in real life.

However, Cathleen Gates from the American College of Cardiology told CNBC that Facebook had approached them “concerning the use of anonymised data to further scientific research.”

Facebook replied that the proposed scientific research has not gone past the planning phase as it was yet to receive any patient’s data. It said further, “Last month, we decided that we should pause these discussions so we can focus on other important work, including doing a better job of protecting people’s data.”  

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