Face­book raises data wor­ries

Health Data Management - - NEWSLINE - —Greg Slabodkin

Fu­eled by Face­book’s fail­ure to safe­guard the data of users of its so­cial me­dia plat­form, law­mak­ers in Congress are look­ing to pro­tect the on­line pri­vacy of Amer­i­cans through wide-rang­ing leg­is­la­tion that could have sig­nif­i­cant ef­fects on the han­dling of health in­for­ma­tion.

The Bal­anc­ing the Rights of Web Surfers Equally and Re­spon­si­bly (BROWSER) Act would re­quire both In­ter­net ser­vice providers (ISPs) and “edge ser­vice” ven­dors—such as Face­book—to give con­sumers opt-in or opt-out rights for shar­ing cer­tain sen­si­tive data, in­clud­ing health in­for­ma­tion, with third par­ties.

In­tro­duced last year by Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn (R-Tenn.), chair of the House Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Tech­nol­ogy Sub­com­mit­tee, the BROWSER Act de­fines edge ser­vice as one pro­vided over the In­ter­net for which the provider re­quires the user to sub­scribe or es­tab­lish an ac­count in or­der to use the ser­vice—in­clud­ing so­cial me­dia.

Ac­cord­ing to Black­burn, Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion pri­vacy and data se­cu­rity rules have un­fairly fo­cused on ISPs even though edge ser­vice providers such as Face­book col­lect just as much con­sumer data—if not more. How­ever, the BROWSER Act would des­ig­nate the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion as the na­tion’s sole on­line pri­vacy en­forcer and treat ISPs and edge providers equally. A vote hasn’t been set.

“This bill cre­ates a level and fair pri­vacy play­ing field by bring­ing all en­ti­ties that col­lect and sell the per­sonal data of in­di­vid­u­als un­der the same rules,” said Black­burn. “What this would do is have one reg­u­la­tor (FTC), one set of rules for the en­tire ecosys­tem.”

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