BetterHelp banned from sharing customer data with advertisers, social media giants
Online counseling platform BetterHelp has been sharing user data with companies like Facebook and Snapchat for advertising purposes without explicit consent, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said.
The company, which trades under a range of other names, has agreed to pay $7.8 million to consumers who signed up for its service between Aug. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2020.
Based on a 30-day public comment period, the FTC will make a final decision directing BetterHelp to fulfill a series of responsibilities, and BetterHelp may have to stop sharing personally identifiable information with third parties.
BetterHelp Data Sharing
According to the US Federal Trade Commission document (opens in a new tab), email addresses, IP addresses, and health and history records — including current and previous treatments — have been shared with third parties.It explains that BetterHelp has “repeatedly promised [this data] private and use it only for non-advertising purposes,” which was later found to be false over a seven-year period between 2013 and 2020.
It was also found that staff lacked adequate training in handling sensitive data, and that in many cases third-party companies had been given permission to use the data for their own research and product development.
Data sharing occurs many times over a long period of time. For example, BetterHelp uploaded more than 7 million email addresses to Facebook between 2017 and 2018. The platform later matched 4 million of them to existing Facebook user accounts.
IP address sharing is also used to retarget previous users with more advertisements to increase revenue.
For this case, better help (opens in a new tab) explain:
“To clarify, we do not and have never shared private information, such as member names or clinical data during treatment, with advertisers, publishers, social media platforms, or any other similar third parties. Additionally, we have not and never We have not received any payment from any third party for any information of any of our members.”