Health data privacy is the focus of a new bill in Congress

Preventing your info from being sold for targeted ads

The overturning of Roe v. Wade last year opened up major concerns about the privacy of personal health data and whether health care services could be compelled to disclose it to the government or, perhaps worse, sell it to ad buyers. The right to privacy, at least in this very specific situation, could be reinstated not by case law, but by Congress — a new bill has been introduced in the Senate that will prohibit any personally identifiable health and location data from being sold for advertising purposes.

If passed, the Upholding Protections for Health and Online Location Data (UPHOLD) Privacy Act would protect data from users, healthcare providers, fitness tracking devices, and web browsing histories. It would also grant

S. 631, as it’s known, was introduced this week by Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

"Since the reversal of Roe, data brokers and tech firms have continued to profit from the private health and location data of millions of Americans, including those seeking reproductive health care services," Warren said in a joint statement from the senators. "The UPHOLD Privacy Act would protect consumers' sensitive data and their right to privacy."

There’s been some anticipation on Big Tech to address health data management for a while now. Google has a new Health Connect API which it launched last year at its I/O conference that defines rules for services that want to access users’ submitted and device-collected information.

Ultimately, though, tracking how personal data gets used by third parties is a tough task — Engadget reports the Federal Trade Commission is investigating online counseling company BetterHelp for sharing their clients’ data to ad buyers without permission.

A bill like the UPHOLD Privacy Act is definitely needed. The big questions are whether and when it might get a vote.

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