ICO Worried Over NHS Data Platforms

Bob Styran, IT audit expert
November 30, 2010 /

Worried that another data privacy violation may transpire again with Google Analytics and Facebook plugins being connected to NHS Choices website, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has raised its concerns to the Department of Health.

ICO sought assurances these data platforms would not expose personal information of anybody who would be visiting the site to third parties. In its letter, the ICO said it would like to determine if third-parties have access to the data of individuals consulting the NHS Choices site.

Mischa Tuffield, blogger of online identity protection firm Garlik, took the first step of sounding the alarm about how the web analytics technology mounted on the NHS site tracks an individual’s behavior as data are being sent to Facebook after clicking the “Like” button.

Tuffield lamented that since members turning to NHS site only intend to look up for medical conditions and keep them private, NHS’s sharing of these data with third parties is questionable.

“There are few things more sensitive to an individual than their health information,” the ICO said.

The NHS declared in its site through a privacy statement that it does not uphold practices of collecting personally identifying information in its linkages with web analytics. It admitted, however, that Facebook users who are logged in to their account while visiting the NHS site would connect their user IDs to information about the page they visit even if they do not press the “Like” button.

The ICO is yet to receive feedbacks from the Department of Health. ICO is also expecting the department’s clarification to an earlier motion tabled in parliament by Tom Watson MP on November 24.


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