Saturday, January 24, 2015

New Privacy Concerns Over Government’s Health Care Website

The government’s health insurance website is quietly passing along consumers’ personal data to outside websites, just as President Obama is calling for stronger cybersecurity protections.
It works like this: When you apply for coverage on, dozens of data companies may be able to tell that you are on the site. Some can even glean details such as your age, income, ZIP code, whether you smoke, or whether you are pregnant. contains embedded connections to multiple data companies that the administration says generate analysis to improve the consumer experience. Officials say outside companies are barred from using the data to further their own business interests.
Still, the technology allows for individual Internet users to be tracked, building profiles coveted by advertisers.
Connections to third-party companies were documented by technology experts who analyzed, and confirmed by the Associated Press. There is no evidence that personal information from has been misused, but the high number of outside links is raising some questions.
‘‘As I look at vendors on a website . . . they could be another potential point of failure,’’ said corporate cybersecurity consultant Theresa Payton. ‘‘Vendor management can often be the weakest link in your privacy and security chain.’’
A White House chief information officer under President George W. Bush, Payton said the number of outside connections seems like ‘‘overkill.’’
The privacy concerns come against the backdrop of Obama’s new initiative to protect personal data online, a highlight of his State of the Union message Tuesday night. The administration is getting the website ready for the final enrollment drive of this year, aiming to have more than 9 million people signed up by Feb. 15 for subsidized coverage.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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