GOP chairman wants answers on HealthCare.gov privacy

The head of the House Science Committee is demanding the Obama administration explain why companies were allowed to gather information about people visiting HealthCare.gov.

“Data mining companies gather and sell personal information without our knowledge or consent,” Chairman Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithEx-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm Ex-Tea Party lawmakers turn heads on K Street Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (R-Texas) wrote to the heads of the Health and Human Services Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as well as the White House’s chief technology officer.

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“It is astonishing that the Obama administration has allowed scores of these companies to take up permanent residence on the Healthcare.gov website,” he wrote.

Last week, The Associated Press revealed that 50 outside advertising and data-tracking companies were operating on the ObamaCare website in order to track information about people shopping for health insurance. The information obtained by the companies may include their name, ZIP code, pregnancy status and Internet protocol (IP) address.

Congressional Republicans — many of whom have long been skeptical of the website's security — have jumped on the news and used it to attack the Obama administration.

Outside cybersecurity and privacy advocates have also expressed alarm at the amount of detailed information that companies were reportedly picking up from the federal website.

In his letter this week, Smith warned HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and U.S. CTO Megan Smith that they all may be asked to testify before the committee “on relatively short notice,” because of the “serious issues of personal privacy and government information security” raised by the reported practice.