Therapy app BetterHelp, widely known as the sponsor for many a YouTube video and podcast, has been caught improperly selling user data to social media companies including Facebook and Snapchat — sparking widespread controversy recently.
Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that the company must pay $7.8 million in damages and refrain from the behavior in the future.
BetterHelp initially promised users signing up for the service that it would not use their medical data to sell to advertisers, but the FTC found it had indeed "used and revealed consumers’ email addresses, IP addresses, and health questionnaire information to Facebook, Snapchat, Criteo, and Pinterest for advertising purposes."
The FTC also discovered that BetterHelp went so far as to give customer service agents a false script to read when assuring consumers the company would not sell their data.
If the ordered damages go through, BetterHelp would be forced to pay the $7.8 million to customers who signed up between August 2017 and December 2020.
In response to the story, many online were furious, particularly at the many YouTubers and podcasts who agreed to take BetterHelp's sponsorship money.
In response to the order, BetterHelp said in a statement on its site that it was following industry-standard practices with data and it was not admitting to wrongdoing. The full statement reads:
The FTC alleged we used limited, encrypted information to optimize the effectiveness of our advertising campaigns so we could deliver more relevant ads and reach people who may be interested in our services. This industry-standard practice is routinely used by some of the largest health providers, health systems, and healthcare brands. Nonetheless, we understand the FTC's desire to set new precedents around consumer marketing, and we are happy to settle this matter with the agency. This settlement, which is no admission of wrongdoing, allows us to continue to focus on our mission to help millions of people around the world get access to quality therapy.
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