Facebook Tables Health Data Research Project


After the Cambridge Analytica data scandal raised privacy concerns, Facebook reportedly tabled a proposal to work with multiple U.S. hospitals on a research project. The social media platform reportedly wanted hospitals to share anonymized patient data that it would match with its own data in an effort to identify patients that might need special care, CNBC reported.

“This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared or analyzed anyone’s data,” Facebook said in a statement to CNBC.

Facebook was in discussions with multiple health-related organizations, such as the American College of Cardiology and the Stanford Medical School about an agreement to share data. But, since data shared with Facebook would obscure personal information such as patient names, Facebook wanted to use a common process called “hashing” to find out which individuals were also in its own data sets.

The news comes as Facebook has adjusted its policies and practices — including limiting third-party access to a user’s social network and adjusting its News Feed algorithms to prioritize user-generated content over ads — to prevent some of the bad behaviors that compromised user data without the company’s knowledge.

The Cambridge Analytica data scandal that has dominated the headlines only raised the decibel level over why and how the user data of not just 87 million people — but quite possibly all 2 billion users — has been compromised in a way that gives access to that data and those users without any implied or express permission to do so.

Many of those approximately 87 million users were located in the United States, Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer said in a blog post. The earlier 50 million-person estimate was based on investigations by The Observer in London and The New York Times. While Schroepfer did not say how Facebook calculated its estimate, he said the company would tell users if their data was shared with Cambridge Analytica.


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