Facebook suspends project to collect patients’ health data
San Francisco: In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data breach, Facebook has reportedly suspended a research project where the social media giant was in touch with several major US hospitals to collect data about their patients.
According to a report in CNBC late Thursday, Facebook aimed to build profiles of patients and help the hospitals, including Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology, figure out which patients may need special care or treatment.
“This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared, or analysed anyone’s data,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.
A Facebook statement said: “Last year Facebook began discussions with leading medical institutions to explore whether scientific research using anonymised Facebook data could help the medical community advance our understanding in this area.
“The project could have raised new concerns about the massive amount of data Facebook collects about its users, and how this data can be used in ways users never expected.”
Facebook, however, told The Verge that the patient data would instead be used more generally.
“The project would not attempt to provide health recommendations for specific people. Instead, the focus would be on producing general insights that would help medical professionals take social connectedness into account as they develop treatment or intervention programmes for their patients,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Facebook has admitted that information of up to 87 million people, mostly in the US, may have been improperly shared with the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.
Private data of over 5.6 lakh Indian Facebook users was also compromised by a private marketing firm that later sold the personal details acquired through a quiz app to Cambridge Analytica.