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Now for sale: Data on your mental health (Washington Post)

Capitalizing on the pandemic explosion in telehealth and therapy apps that collect details of your mental health needs, data brokers are packaging that information for resale, a new study finds. There’s no law stopping them.

In a study published Monday, a research team at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy outlines how expansive the market for people’s health data has become.

After contacting data brokers to ask what kinds of mental health information she could buy, researcher Joanne Kim reported that she ultimately found 11 companies willing to sell bundles of data that included information on what antidepressants people were taking, whether they struggled with insomnia or attention issues, and details on other medical ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease or bladder-control difficulties.

Justin Sherman, a senior fellow at Duke who ran the research team, says that mental health data should be treated especially carefully, given that it could pertain to people in vulnerable situations — and that, if shared publicly or rendered inaccurately, could lead to devastating results.

Source: Washington Post, 13 February 2023

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