Facebook was going to collect patients' data for hospitals. Now, it won't

Photo: Shutterstock

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data breach, Facebook has reportedly suspended a research project where the social media giant was in touch with several major US hospitals to collect data about their patients.

According to a report in CNBC late Thursday, Facebook aimed to build profiles of patients and help the hospitals, including Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology, figure out which patients may need special care or treatment.

"This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared, or analysed anyone's data," a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.

A Facebook statement said: "Last year Facebook began discussions with leading medical institutions to explore whether scientific research using anonymised Facebook data could help the medical community advance our understanding in this area.

"The project could have raised new concerns about the massive amount of data Facebook collects about its users, and how this data can be used in ways users never expected."

Facebook, however, told The Verge that the patient data would instead be used more generally.

"The project would not attempt to provide health recommendations for specific people. Instead, the focus would be on producing general insights that would help medical professionals take social connectedness into account as they develop treatment or intervention programmes for their patients," a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Facebook has admitted that information of up to 87 million people, mostly in the US, may have been improperly shared with the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

Private data of over half a million Indian Facebook users was also compromised by a private marketing firm that later sold the personal details acquired through a quiz app to Cambridge Analytica.


Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel