In the UK, Labour MP Tom Watson has complained to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley about a code on the NHS Choices web site, which enables Facebook and other firms to track the medical conditions users have searched.
The problem was first uncovered by a University of Southampton researcher who was examining the Facebook ‘Like’ button which appears on the NHS Choices site.
Every time a user visits one of the site’s ‘medical conditions’ pages containing the ‘Like’ button, information is sent to Facebook, whether or not the button is clicked. In addition, Google, WebTrends and addthiscdncom can track browser sessions on the site.
Watson has asked Lansley to remove the tracking code. ‘I understand the demands to offer government service online but this should not be achieved at the price of privacy,’ he stated in a letter. ‘I urge you to take steps to ensure that third party websites should not have access to such information.’
In response, the NHS said it is users’ responsibility to monitor their privacy on Facebook.
Watson’s letter can be read in full here: www.tom-watson.co.uk