Facebook asked hospitals to share patient data

Facebook asked hospitals to share patient data
© Getty Images

Facebook asked hospitals for anonymized data about their patients for a proposed research project, CNBC reported on Thursday.

The social media platform reportedly intended to compare the data, which included prescription information and illnesses, with its own data that it collected from users, in order to flag users that may need hospital care.

The proposal was paused after Facebook revealed that Cambridge Analytica improperly took data from at least 50 million of its users’ profiles, and reportedly never made it beyond initial planning stages.

"This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared or analyzed anyone's data," a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.

The social media company discussed its plan with organizations including Stanford Medical School and American College of Cardiology.

The data the company would have collected would have been completely anonymous and only available for medical research, according to the report.


Cathleen Gates, the interim CEO of the American College of Cardiology, said in a statement provided to CNBC that Facebook’s proposed data project could help medical research.

“As part of its mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health, the American College of Cardiology has been engaged in discussions with Facebook around the use of anonymized Facebook data, coupled with anonymized ACC data, to further scientific research on the ways social media can aid in the prevention and treatment of heart disease — the #1 cause of death in the world,” she said.

News of the proposed medical data collection comes amid scrutiny over how a British research firm hired by the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, improperly took user data through Facebook.

Controversy over the matter has sparked an outcry about Facebook’s data collection and privacy practices.

Lawmakers have been particularly vocal on the issue. Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook draws lawmaker scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens How social media fuels U.S. political polarization — what to do about it Democrats, unions pour cash into California recall fight MORE is set to testify before them on Capitol Hill in hearing on Tuesday and Wednesday during Senate and House hearings about data privacy.