Talk about a fast turnaround!
Not Cool, Guys.
No, I'm not gonna go into a "Dental Gate"-style rant against the HHS Dept. about this. Without knowing more details about the information in question or how it's being used, this may be another "nontroversy". Even so, it strikes me as being a bit of an unforced error on the part of the administration:
The government's health insurance website is quietly sending consumers' personal data to private companies that specialize in advertising and analyzing Internet data for performance and marketing,The Associated Press has learned.
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.
I posted a bunch of updates after that, going back and forth about whether this was a genuine privacy/data security issue or much ado about nothing.
Well, guess what? (thanks to commentor ProfitOverLife for the tip):
Bowing to privacy concerns, the Obama administration reversed itself Friday, scaling back the release of consumers' personal information from the government's health insurance website to private companies with a commercial interest in the data.
The administration made the changes to HealthCare.gov after The Associated Press reported earlier this week that the website was quietly sending consumers' personal data to companies that specialize in advertising and analyzing Internet data for performance and marketing.
...Analysis of the website Friday by the AP showed that the administration had made changes to reduce the outbound flow of personal information. Before that, the website was explicitly sending personal data to third-party sites.
...The changes were confirmed by Cooper Quintin, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group. Quintin called it "a great first step," but said the administration needs to do more.
Well there you have it.
I know that the EFF wants them to take further steps, and obviously this won't get the GOP to shut up about it, but I give high praise to the administration for what appears to be a remarkably swift and meaningful action to resolve this issue before it blew up into a Major Thing® (whether it was worthy of such fuss or not).