Online counseling platform BetterHelp shared user data with companies such as Facebook and Snapchat for advertising purposes without express consent, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said.
The company, which does business under a series of other names, agreed to a $7.8 million payment to consumers who signed up for its services between August 1, 2017, and December 31, 2020.
Subject to a 30-day public comment period, the FTC will make a final decision instructing BetterHelp to perform a series of obligations that would see BetterHelp cease sharing personally identifiable information with third parties. .
Sharing data with BetterHelp
According to an FTC DOCUMENTS (Opens in a new tab), email addresses, IP addresses, and health status and histories – including current and past therapies – are shared with third parties. It explains that BetterHelp has “repeatedly promised to deliver [this data] private and only use it for non-advertising purposes”, which has since been found to be false for a seven-year period from 2013 to 2020.
It was also found that employees lacked sufficient training for handling sensitive data, and that third-party companies were given permission in many cases to use data for their own research and product development.
Data sharing has happened many times for a long period of time. Between 2017 and 2018, for example, BetterHelp uploaded more than 7 million email addresses to Facebook. The platform later matched 4 million of these with existing Facebook user accounts.
IP address sharing is also used to retarget previous users with more ads in an effort to drive revenue.
In response to the case, Better Help (Opens in a new tab) means:
“To be clear, we do not share and have never shared with advertisers, publishers, social media platforms, or any similar third parties, private information such as members’ names or clinical data from therapy sessions.Furthermore, we do not receive and have not received any payment from any third party for any kind of information about any of our members.