Facebook and NHS Choices

P. John made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Health and Social Care

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Department of Health,

I note the www.nhs.uk web site includes third party content drawn from Facebook, described in your privacy policy as follows;

"When visiting NHS Choices pages that display a Facebook Like button, information relating to the date and time of your visit, the web page you are on (commonly known as the URL) and other technical information about the IP address, browser and operating system you use will be collected by Facebook. If you are logged into Facebook, your user ID number will also be associated with the information mentioned above."

Please could you disclose to me;

- correspondence between the DoH and Facebook concerning the introduction of the Facebook code
- the technical means I can use to prevent this intrusive monitoring taking place when I consult the NHS Choices web site for helth information
- the technical reasons why this code could not be hosted on a first party URL (so avoiding a third party request to Facebook)
- any consideration given by the DoH to the ethics of involuntarily conveying information about the health concerns of NHS users to an American social network

You may be aware, Mark Zuckerberg - owner of Facebook, allegedly considers people who trust him as 'dumb fucks' to use his own vernacular(*).

Yours faithfully,

P. John

(*) Business Insider;

Zuck: They "trust me"
Zuck: Dumb fucks.


P. John left an annotation ()

Mischa Tuffield's analysis;
NHS.uk allowing Google, Facebook, and others to track you


Department of Health and Social Care

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.


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Department of Health and Social Care

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

Barbara Richards left an annotation ()

I don't know if you're aware but NHS choices are now censoring valid complaints about hospitals on their websites review space. That means only good reviews are being accepted, which, to me, is a bit of a joke!

Leigh Park Initiative left an annotation ()

"NHS Choices does not hold any personal or sensitive health information. Therefore, at no time does NHS Choices pass personal health information to any third party. "

I'm afraid that the browsing metadata of a citizen visiting the NHS Choices IS extremely sensitive personal data which the visitor to the site has entrusted to those operating the NHS Choices website, on the understanding that it would be treated lawfully, and accorded the protections of the relevant national Data Protection authority (the ICO in the UK). I suggest that NHS Personal Choices consult their Data Protection Registrar on the correct legal position, both now and once the GDPR is in force, regarding explcit prior consent, and the implementation of an explicit prior voluntary optin process should visitors actively make an informed choice to share their NHS Choices browsing metadata with third commercial parties in non EU countries.

Peter Bowyer left an annotation ()

This was 7 years ago. Things have moved on a great deal since then.

Barbara Richards left an annotation ()

Peter is absolutely correct, things certainly have moved on. NHS Choices don't just snoop on oops I mean moniter NHS Choices complainees on Facebook, they also illegally share confidential emails with third parties . Such is their determination to prevent anyone from making any complaint about poor/dangerous/abusive treatment.

Peter Bowyer left an annotation ()

I don't think it's helpful to mis-construe the Facebook issue like that. The entire problem was due to a brief period when NHS Choices used Facebook's 'Like' button, which by its nature enables anonymous tracking of a user's activity across different sites which also use the button. NHS Choices never gained any knowledge of anyone's Facebook activity. (And yes, I do know what I'm talking about).

Barbara Richards left an annotation ()

It's a fine and rare thing when public officials act with decency and decorum, by, for example, telling the truth, working for the good of others, don't commit malfeasance of public office and don't misuse the Data Protection Act. Sadly it is becoming a rare thing nowadays. Peter, please tell your colleague not to send me any more emails concerning my complaint about NHS Choices blocking my complaint.

Peter Bowyer left an annotation ()

I have no relationship with NHS Choices, sorry.

Barbara Richards left an annotation ()

I rest my case! So glad other people are talking about this intrusive and illegal monitoring.