Mothers are familiar with this phenomenon: when a woman is pregnant, she’ll begin to receive advertisements for diapers, baby food, and breast pumps.
According to Medical Ethicist Art Caplan, this model of “social information mining”’ has long been a way for advertisers to target consumers, through little bits of information that we, the consumers, inadvertently put online.
As reported by NPR, this model is now being employed by health insurance companies for a more nefarious purpose: determining how much your healthcare could cost them.
“I’m not talking here about health information, you know, your blood pressure information or your DNA type,” Caplan said during an interview with Boston Public Radio Thursday. “This is when are you going to the health club and if you’ve got a credit card record that you joined a health club, are you walking with your FitBit somewhere … you might think, well, this information, you know, who’s going to be able to get it? It’s all kind of personal … [but] companies love to collect this information and sell it.”
Information from social media updates, tracking devices like FitBit and highly personal details like name changes and marital status may impact your health insurance rate — and there are no laws to stop companies from selling this data.
“We have some legislation that says you can’t discriminate based on prior genetic condition, but this stuff, this kind of information isn’t that,” Caplan said. “We had some protections built into the Affordable Care Act, but that’s been chopped down and restricted and hacked back."
To hear the full interview, click on the audio player above.