Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Web ‘Scrapers’ Look For Personal Information
The Wall Street Journal, as part of a series of stories about privacy on the Web, reports on the practice of "scraping" in which vendors "harvest online conversations and collect personal details from social-networking sites." Those efforts can pull in medical information, as well as other personal data. "At 1 a.m. on May 7, the website PatientsLikeMe.com noticed suspicious activity on its 'Mood' discussion board. (There, people exchange highly personal stories about their emotional disorders, ranging from bipolar disease to a desire to cut themselves.) It was a break-in. A new member of the site, using sophisticated software, was 'scraping,' or copying, every single message off PatientsLikeMe's private online forums. PatientsLikeMe managed to block and identify the intruder: Nielsen Co., the privately held New York media-research firm. Nielsen monitors online 'buzz' for clients, including major drug makers, which buy data gleaned from the Web to get insight from consumers about their products, Nielsen says" (Angwin and Stecklow, 10/12).
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