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How easy is it to buy mental health data of individuals? Hint: Not as hard as it should be

A new research finds that it is relatively easy to buy personal data of people with mental health issues from data brokers.

A researcher at Duke University asked 37 data brokers in the US for personal data on people with mental health issues, and at least 10 of them were ready to sell the same with minimal vetting and some of them indicated that they could provide identifiable (non-anonymised) data as well. In a report on her findings published in February 2023, researcher Joanne Kim writes that the industry "appears to lack a set of best practices for handling individuals’ mental health data, particularly in the areas of privacy and buyer vetting." Why does this matter: Mental health data is highly sensitive personal data and no one would want it revealed to others for various reasons. This data can be used by companies "for various purposes, ranging from profiling individuals for targeted advertising to secretly assessing individuals’ health costs," the report states. The fact that such data is so easily available in the open market emphasizes the pertinent need for privacy regulations not just in the US but also in India, where the Data Protection Bill has been in the making for over five years now. But during the same time, efforts to digitize the health data of citizens have been going on in full swing, and the number of digital health apps has also surged. Read: How Location And Health Data Can Be Misused And What The US Government Is Doing To Protect Users Key findings in the report: Willingness to sell requested data: "26 of the 37 contacted data brokers responded to inquiries about…

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