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Report on the Privacy Policies and Practices of Health Web Sites

Janlori Goldman and Zoe Hudson, Health Privacy Project, and Richard Smith

This report compares the privacy policies with actual practices of the 21 most-visited health-related Web sites. The report dispels the belief that visitors are anonymous and shows that personal information may be vulnerable.

Health care Web sites have access to an unprecedented amount of personal information about consumers. What are their policies about the privacy of that information? How easily can consumers find and understand these policies? Do they afford sufficient protection? And do the actual practices of the health sites reflect their stated policies?

This report, published in January 2000, presents a profile of the policies and practices of 21 health-related Web sites. The sites were selected to represent a mix of the most trafficked consumer health sites at the time of the study.