By Tim Devaney - 01/24/15 09:24 PM EST
The Obama administration says it is taking steps to protect consumers’ personal information on HealthCare.gov after privacy concerns were raised earlier this week.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is adding a layer of encryption to the website to help cut back on the information it shares with outside companies.
This comes after the Associated Press reported that the ObamaCare website was providing companies with personal information about healthcare customers, including where they live, their income, tobacco use, and the pregnancy status of women.
“Earlier this week, questions were raised about our relationship with these companies, our privacy polices, and the technical way we were constructing our web page addresses, or URLs,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of HHS, said Saturday in a statement.
“We take these questions seriously, and immediately launched a review of our privacy policies, contracts for third party tools and URL constructions,” the agency added. “We are looking at whether there are additional steps we should take to improve our efforts. While this process is ongoing, we have taken action that we believe helps further increase consumer privacy.”
The changes include new levels of encryption when customers use the Window Shopping feature of HealthCare.gov to buy insurance, the agency said. This will reduce the personal information available to third-party companies.
“The Window Shopping tool is an online calculator which allows a consumer to get an estimate of the cost of a policy by entering a zip code, income, age, and checking a box if you’re a smoker, parent or pregnant,” the agency wrote.
"Previously, when a consumer got his or her results, it created a URL that included the data entered in the calculator. This URL is now encrypted and helps prevent third parties from viewing the data the consumer entered,” it added.