Recent FTC Commitment on Protecting Consumers’ Health Privacy

FTC SealPart of the 7/8/2022 Executive Order 14076 – Protecting Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services – required the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider actions “to protect consumers’ privacy when seeking information about the provision of reproductive healthcare services.”  On 7/11/2022, Kristin Cohen, Acting Associate Director of the FTC Division of Privacy & Identity Protection, posted “Location, Health, and other Sensitive Information: FTC Committed to Fully Enforcing the Law Against Illegal Use and Sharing of Highly Sensitive Data” on the FTC Business Blog.  Cohen discussed the capability of connected devices “directly observing or deriving sensitive information about users,” particularly “a person’s precise location and information about their health.”  She also highlighted “information related to personal reproductive matters” and noted several FTC actions against companies that misuse consumers’ data, such as the 1/13/2021 FTC settlement with Flo Health (which had shared with third parties sensitive health information about women).  Perhaps most revealing, Cohen stated “We will vigorously enforce the law if we uncover illegal conduct that exploits Americans’ location, health, or other sensitive data.  The FTC’s past enforcement actions provide a roadmap for firms seeking to comply with the law.”  Cohen’s post ends with a link to the FTC Business Guidance – Privacy and Security page, which includes information on Health Privacy.