Guess Who Else Is Spying on You?

…[O]nline snoops may be keeping tabs on your Internet health searches… And that includes use of terms such as “depression” or “herpes.” A research letter published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine found that seven of 20 widely used health websites are passing on users’ searches to third parties. Those sending the information along include widely used free commercial websites like and, as well as popular news sites like The New York Times and Men’s Health Magazine. (Politico)

Comments (14)

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  1. Cory says:

    Corporations spy on you; I hope this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

  2. Ashley says:

    “Huesch downloaded free privacy software as well as a commercial program that detects hidden traffic from a user’s computer on the websites of third parties and searched for the terms “depression,” “herpes” and “cancer.” The free privacy tools detected cookies or other “tracking elements” in 13 of 20 sites, and the commercial program found that seven actively sent search terms to third parties.”

    So it looks like there are ways to prevent or avoid this if you really want to.

    • Bubba says:

      Just reading about our utter lack of Internet privacy depresses me.

      Oops, I hope I don’t get flooded with offers for Viagra to alleviate my depression (caused by reading about privacy violations). My ISP’s tracking software will now probably target me for advertisements for herpes therapies once it detects the cookies from “Viagra” advertisements that result from my post that mentions depression.

  3. Linda Gorman says:

    Guess that explains all of the internet pharmacy ads for Viagra that I get as a health policy researcher.

    Obviously they need a little work on market targeting.

    If it’s a problem, try using, Ixquick, DuckDuckGo, a trustworthy proxy, or Tor. Wiping everything frequently with something like CCleaner helps with the ad targeting.

    Doesn’t mean you can’t be tracked, but it does make it harder.

  4. Howard says:

    Google and Facebook are now well known for spying on you. Who needs to worry about our government spying on us when everyone else seems to be doing it and much more often!

  5. Devon Herrick says:

    Years ago The Internet marketing firm, DoubleClick (now owned by Google) proposed merging a database of online viewing habits (people assumed were anonymous) with a database of mail order purchases owned by Abacus Direct. People were livid and demanded no such violation of their privacy take place. The types of data collection that has occurred since then is probably much worse than we could have imagined.

  6. Craig says:

    I don’t see the big deal here. You look up specific diseases and a 3rd party knowing about it doesn’t harm you or anyone else in any way.

    • Jeff says:

      It is our constitutional right to have privacy, that is what the big deal is.

      • Craig says:

        I’m sorry, I might be rusty on my Con-Law studying, but where in the constitution does it explicitly give you the right to privacy?

    • John Fembup says:

      Craig, I think a 3rd party “knowing about it” is not the issue.

      It’s what the 3rd party might then to “do” with the information that worries people.

      At one time, neither you nor I had much reason to worry about the confidentiality of info we provide to IRS when we pay our taxes every year . . . That all changed recently, as we learned that IRS leaks and/or uses such information for political ends that are well outside its mission to collect taxes.

      And now that Obamacare is law, the government will have much more information about our private medical conditions. Once again “having” the information is not the problem. The problem is how the information will be used.

      Does our government merit the public’s trust that it will not misuse this information? I say No.