Remember all those promises about how the ObamaCare website, HealthCare.gov, would be a veritable Fort Knox of data integrity, a super-secure environment where your personal information would be treated like delicate, priceless treasure? Never mind all that!
It turns out the system is passing tons of our personal data along to Obama’s business partners. We can all wait with breathless anticipation to learn how much of it has been intercepted by hackers.
Now, if data integrity is the broken promise of ObamaCare that really bugs you, you must have slept through the catastrophic detonation of so many other promises. You also haven’t been paying close enough attention to how Big Government operates.
It’s all about control, and data is essential to control. The more your rulers know about you, the better they can predict or manipulate your actions. It was inevitable that data harvested from ObamaCare applications would be stored and put to later use. It was also inevitable we’d be told it was all for our own good, just part of improving the customer experience, not really so very different from what Amazon.com does…
The Associated Press reports, with a little dash of irony, on the discovery that “the government’s health insurance website is quietly passing along consumers’ personal data to outside websites, just as President Barack Obama is calling for stronger cybersecurity protections.” Of course, Obama would see no contradiction there. Data handed out to those he deems worthy is as secure as it needs to be.
It works like this: When you apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, dozens of data companies may be able to tell that you are on the site. Some can even glean details such as your age, income, ZIP code, whether you smoke or if you are pregnant.
HealthCare.gov contains embedded connections to multiple data firms that the administration says generate analysis to improve the consumer experience. Officials say outside firms barred are from using the data to further their own business interests.
Still, ever-evolving technology allows for individual Internet users to be tracked, building profiles coveted by advertisers.
Connections to third-party tech firms were documented by technology experts who analyzed HealthCare.gov, and confirmed by The Associated Press. There is no evidence that personal information from HealthCare.gov has been misused, but the high number of outside connections is raising questions.
“As I look at vendors on a website…they could be another potential point of failure,” said corporate cybersecurity consultant Theresa Payton. “Vendor management can often be the weakest link in your privacy and security chain.”
A former White House chief information officer under President George W. Bush, she said the large number of outside connections on HealthCare.gov seems like “overkill” and makes it “kind of an outlier” among government websites.
Oh, relax, you big worrywarts! It’s impossible for your almighty rulers to “misuse” your personal data, since by definition any use they can imagine for it must be appropriate, and anyone they decide to give it to must be trustworthy. They define what is right, so they cannot be guilty of wrongdoing. QED.
Also, you can save your nasty little questions about security, because the band of super-geniuses who gave this website such a memorable launch are not interested in discussing how they can guarantee data integrity, and even if they were so inclined, any discussion of security measures could compromise them. Again, QED. It’s all QED. Quit struggling and enjoy the New Normal, where so many of the important decisions in life will be made for you by politicians and their top supporters.
Things got a little sticky when an Administration spokesman assured the Associated Press that “HealthCare.gov comports with standards set by the federal National Institute for Standards and Technology,” but NIST actually cautions against the kind of random data collection and profile-building HealthCare.gov engages in.
There’s quite a bit of it going on, too. The data-mining experts who worked with the Associated Press seemed a bit stunned at how much information was being disseminated. They found about fifty third-party connections invisibly built into HealthCare.gov. AP’s in-house experts found “dozens of websites were accessed behind the scenes” during a mere 10-minute session at HealthCare.gov, including “Google’s data-analytics service, Twitter, Facebook, and a host of online advertising providers.” Some of those connections appeared to be paying very close attention to what HealthCare.gov users were doing.
Certainly such harvested information can be employed to improve a user’s online experience, but the level of “improvement” implied by the list of inquiries envisioned by the AP is downright creepy: “Have you been researching a chronic illness like coronary artery blockage? Do you shop online for smoking-cessation aids? Are you investigating genetic markers for a certain type of breast cancer? Are you seeking help for financial problems, or for an addiction?”
Even if the harvested data is never used for anything except personalized health-care advertising, it could prove unnerving for HealthCare.gov users, especially as their new Big Doctor in Washington becomes more concerned with “improving” their lifestyles to reduce health care costs. And it’s all being done without our knowledge, or permission, because Big Doc thinks we gave our individual dignity away forever on the night of the 2008 presidential election.