Facebook's latest scandal over consumer data misuse likely won't affect pharma day to day on the platform, but companies should continue privacy vigilance.
Another internet data scandal—this time Facebook and Cambridge Analytica—has consumers buzzing about the safety of their personal information. Will people become more nervous about sharing their healthcare data in its wake?
Probably not, said several industry experts interviewed by FiercePharma, although pharmas should still keep an eye on the controversy.
Cambridge Analytica's mishandling of data collected in apps spurred Congress to hold hearings with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week. That app-oriented issue doesn’t apply to pharma companies, which generally don’t use Facebook apps to gather data. Drugmakers strictly use Facebook data to target consumers with one-way ads or content.
Facebook did confirm last week that it had been in discussions with several hospitals and medical groups about sharing patient data for a research project, but the social media giant said the project never went beyond the planning phase.
Still, Zuckerberg’s high-profile appearance in Washington, D.C., has consumers, companies and lawmakers talking about data, privacy and Facebook once again, so pharma companies should take note and be ready to answer any questions that do come their way.
A recent report in the New York Times about Cambridge Analytica's improper Facebook data harvest agreed: “[F]or the first time, many privacy experts think users will be more willing to put up with a little more inconvenience in return for a lot more privacy.”
What might happen, said Michael Weintraub, CEO of pharma and healthcare addressable ad platform Medicx, is that pharma companies may “hit the pause button temporarily” while they wait to see what, if any, action comes out of Congress and what, if any, steps Facebook takes.
He agreed that companies and consumers may take a renewed look at security and privacy. In fact, the Facebook scandal has stirred talk about a new rule, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that will go into effect in Europe on May 25. Those rules give Europeans more control over their personal data; many will notice more overt consent requests and privacy notices. Privacy pundits, and even tech companies themselves, are pointing to GDPR as a potential guide for the U.S.
“I think many of us in pharma wanting to use data, whether it’s deidentified or opt-in, are going to have to take the approach we’ve taken, which is more of a privacy-by-design,” Weintraub said. “Every concept, every piece of engineering, from the tech side or otherwise, is going to have to think through and cover off everything to ensure what we do is sealed with patient privacy.”