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Hidden Surveillance by Consumer Health Information Websites Jacquelyn Burkell and Alexandre Fortier Faculty of Information and Media Studies University of Western Ontario.

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Hidden Surveillance by Consumer Health Information Websites

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Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Hidden Surveillance by Consumer Health Information Websites

Jacquelyn Burkell and Alexandre Fortier

Faculty of Information and Media Studies

University of Western Ontario


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Most Canadians consider health information to be extremely sensitive. It is inappropriate for this type of information to be used in online behavioural advertising.

Interim Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier,

Jan 15 2014

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

How common are trackers on consumer health websites?

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Is there less tracking on sites recommended by information professionals?

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Is there effective disclosure of behavioural tracking practices in privacy policies?

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Consumer Health Info Sites

  • 81 Google

    • Results from the first two pages of Google searches of the 10 most commonly searched conditions and not among the recommended sites

  • 83 Recommended

    • Consumer and Patient Health Information Section of the American Medical Library Association

    • Consumer Health Information Providers Interest Group of the Canadian Health Libraries Association

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Types of Trackers

  • Analytics

    • Feedback to the site itself

    • Used by site to improve delivery

  • Advertising

    • Third party advertisers

    • Assemble user profile across sites for ad targeting

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Finding the Trackers

  • Cookies

  • Ghostery (web beacons)

  • Charles (web traffic monitor)

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

How common are trackers on consumer health websites?

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

  • 87% of sites have trackers

    • On average from 10 different domains

  • 51% have trackers from 3rd party advertisers

    • On average from 2 different domains

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Is there less tracking on sites recommended by information professionals?

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Trackers

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

3rd Party Trackers

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Are some kinds of sites better than others?

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Types of Sites

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Trackers

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

3rd Party Trackers

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

3rd Party Trackers

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

The Bottom Line

  • Most consumer health information sites have trackers

  • About half have tracking from 3rd party advertisers

    • Commercial sites most commonly

    • Government sites least commonly

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

The Bottom Line

  • Recommended sites have less tracking

    • But only because information professionals are more likely to recommend government sites

    • Commercial sites that are recommended are no better than those returned on Google with respect to tracking, not-for-profit sites are actually worse

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Most Canadians consider health information to be extremely sensitive. It is inappropriate for this type of information to be used in online behavioural advertising.

Interim Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier,

Jan 15 2014

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

The Response

  • Regulatory control of behavioural tracking measures

  • Digital literacy initiatives

    • Increased knowledge of behavioural tracking mechanisms and consequences

    • Public and professional education on strategies to identify and limit behavioural tracking

Burkell and Fortier


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Thanks to:

The opinions expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Burkell and Fortier 2014


Hidden surveillance by consumer health information websites

Jburkell.ca

Burkell and Fortier 2014


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