If you used HealthCare.gov to sign up for health insurance, then third-party advertising and analytics firms could have their hands on some of your information. The site has tools from roughly 50 companies running in the background to collect data that can help improve the customer experience.
The scope of what is disclosed or how it might be used was not immediately clear, but it can include age, income, ZIP code, whether a person smokes, and if a person is pregnant. It can include a computer's Internet address, which can identify a person's name or address when combined with other information collected by sophisticated online marketing or advertising firms.
There's no evidence that these companies have misused the collected data. In fact, the Obama Administration has said that the companies are specifically barred from using any data collected for their own purposes. But, the situation still raises some scary security questions concerning your personal information.
Hopefully these companies are behaving and not exploiting your personal information, but there are no guarantees. The administration hasn't said how it's making sure these companies play by the rules.
Passing information between HealthCare.gov and third parties could also open up the door for hackers to steal your information.
"You don't need all of that data to do customer service," said [former White House chief information officer Theresa] Payton, who served under President George W. Bush. "We know hackers are just waiting at the door, salivating to get at this data."
Using third parties to track the performance of a website is a pretty common practice, but the sheer number of connections working in the background on HealthCare.gov is alarming. I'd feel much more comfortable about the site if we knew exactly how the government is making sure the data isn't misused by third parties or stolen by hackers.