A recent investigation conducted by The Markup and KFF Health News has discovered that several major pharmacies in the United States are sharing sensitive health information of their customers with social media companies. The report revealed that twelve of the nation’s largest pharmacies, including Walgreens, CVS, Kroger, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Rite Aid, have embedded trackers on their websites, which collect data on consumers’ browsing and purchasing activities. This data is then shared with Meta, Google, and Microsoft.
The information being gathered is highly private and sensitive in nature. It includes details about what consumers are looking at or purchasing, such as emergency contraception (plan-B), pregnancy tests, HIV tests, and prenatal vitamins. Another investigation by ProPublica found that certain pharmacy websites selling abortion pills are also sharing this information with Google and other third parties.
While some of the pharmacies have indicated plans to scale back their tracking practices in response to the investigation, others have shifted the blame onto tech companies and advertisers for potentially misusing the collected data. However, there are steps that consumers can take to limit the sharing of their information.
By simply clicking “no” when prompted by websites to collect and share information, individuals can prevent their data from being disclosed. Additionally, major web browsers like Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Opera offer settings specifically designed to limit tracking and sharing on specific websites. Users can customize these settings to provide an additional layer of protection between their information and companies seeking to use it for targeted advertising.
It is crucial for consumers to be aware of the potential privacy risks associated with sharing their health information online and to take proactive steps to safeguard their sensitive data.
Source: The Markup, KFF Health News, ProPublica