Americans who visit the Healthcare.gov insurance marketplace during the upcoming enrollment period starting Nov. 1 will be able to use a new privacy tool, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Friday.
“This simple tool makes it easy for you to opt-in or out of the different types of third-party tools used by HealthCare.gov – Advertising, Analytics, or Social Media,” Kevin Counihan, CEO of the Healthcare.gov marketplace, wrote in a blog post.
By clicking on the “Privacy Options” tab at the bottom of the Healthcare.gov website, users can opt out of those back-end tracking tools, which log and store data from visitors.
“[Y]ou’ll still have access to everything on the site, but we won’t use information from your visit to analyze the site’s technical performance or use digital advertising to remind you about helpful information like deadlines,” the blog post says.
Lawmakers have previously criticized Halthcare.gov for a lack of transparency in its privacy and user data-mining activities. In January, reports surfaced that the program was sharing user information with about 50 third-party companies without consumers’ knowledge.
“This new information is extremely concerning, not only because it violates the privacy of millions of Americans, but because it may potentially compromise their security,” Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wrote in a letter responding to the news. “Individuals should know that when they use Healthcare.gov their information is being properly protected.”
In the blog post on privacy features, Counihan described how the third-party tools the website uses, like Google analytics, are for the enrollees’ benefit.
“These tools can help us do things like understand which pages on our website need improvement, to increase the speed and functionality of HealthCare.gov and make the site more useful to consumers,” he wrote.
CMS also announced that Healthcare.gov will also follow the preferences of consumers with Do Not Track enabled in their browsers. The agency lays out these privacy options and more in its recently updated privacy notice.
“The internet is constantly changing, and we have an obligation to keep evolving alongside it,” the marketplace CEO wrote. “We’ll keep reevaluating our own privacy notice, the tools we use, and how they intersect with the evolving landscape of privacy on the web. We are committed to protecting the information you entrust with us at HealthCare.gov.”