Healthcare.gov Gives Information to Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple

Edit:  Just to clarify, I’m a big fan of the ACA.  It’s not as good as single payer, but so far half a million people have bought healthcare through healthcare.gov, and I doubt they would have done that if the health insurance there wasn’t a better deal than what they currently have.  I have no problem with the law, but I have a massive problem with the healthcare.gov web site and the privacy violations it seems to be perpetrating.

A lot has been said about the atrocious performance of the Healthcare.gov ACA web site, so I thought I’d dig around under the hood a bit to see what’s going on there on a technical level.  I can understand a rough rollout for a week or two.  That’s expected.  It’s been almost a month now, though, so it’s time to dig deeer.  I found some surprises when I started looking around, to say the least.

If you want to know what healthcare.gov is built on you can find that information here, in an easy to read layout.  Lets see… runs on Apache, uses Comodo SSL, hosted by Akami (mental note: Do not buy hosting from these guys), and it runs ads from…

Wait a second… WTF is it doing giving my data to ad networks?!?!?

OK, maybe it’s just some innocent traffic tracking. God knows they can use better user tracking so they can load balance and administer this web page better, right?

No.  God damnit! Turns out there should be no expectation of privacy on healthcare.gov.

They are piping your data to the following ad networks:

  1. Google AdSense
  2. Facebook Exchange FBX
  3. Resonate Insights
  4. Turn
  5. Undertone
  6. Doubleclick.net

That’s not even the people putting ads on the site, that’s just people they are giving your information to, telling them that you went to healthcare.gov!  Once you give them your information I can only imagine all the places they send that.  They probably sell your data from other pages to even more people!

Aside from the privacy issues with this, from a performance standpoint, this is eating their web server performance.  Resources that could be spent on, I don’t know, delivering the web site reliably, are instead being used to make certain that these ad networks get every last bit of data your browser header will send them (which is quite a lot).

Facebook Privacy

The analytics and tracking, the companies who actually give them data to use to administer the site with, they have 9 of those, at least two of which are Google.

They have widgits from Google, Facebook and Adobe.  Twitter provides ‘Document Information’, along with Apple and Google.

If that isn’t enough, they are violating the GPL by outright stealing DataTables.net from Spry Media.

If you look at the code it’s full of commented out segments.  That’s not a horrible thing if you are a freshman computer science major, but this is the government.  Those commented out sections need to either have a purpose for the end user or they need to be cleaned up.  Why isn’t this site polished?

This thing was written by underqualified lowest bidder types.  I’ve seen middle schoolers on MySpace sling better hypertext than this.

Edit 2:  Here are links to my two other blog posts on this subject.

  • Link to post on how to access their backend database without logging in (they made it public).
  • Link to post on how their privacy statement kind of allows this, but it conflicts with itself in multiple places.

Edit:  Here is a screen cap of the builtwith.com analysis of healthcare.gov, in case things change.  I took this tonight.

Screen shot of builtwith.com's analysis of healthcare.gov

Click to enlarge.
This was taken at 12:17 AM on October 23, 2013 with a browser plugin from webpagescreenshot.info. This is an image of builtwith.com’s analysis of healthcare.gov from earlier tonight. I visited the builtwith.com site at 10:55 PM on October 22, according to my browser history, and left it on the screen and took this screen shot a few hours later, at 12:17 AM.

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4 thoughts on “Healthcare.gov Gives Information to Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple

  1. Pingback: See The Full Healthcare.gov Database Without Logging In! | Time Slipped

  2. Pingback: The healthcare.gov Privacy Statement | Time Slipped

  3. You say: “…and I doubt they would have done that if the health insurance there wasn’t a better deal than what they currently have”.

    That is quite an assumption. Many people are being dropped from their existing plans *because* of the ACA/Obamacare. Both of my parents (one still working & one retired who had coverage in retirement) had their coverage dropped specifically because of it. But hey, believe what you want.

    • I’ve seen letters like that. One of my friends showed me his, from Highmark, and it was full of misleading PR speak double entendres to make it look like the ACA is the reason the health insurance is being discontinued. For example, the letter starts out with “As additional provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect you might have questions about how health care reform will affect you.” Then it goes on to say that my friend’s current plan is being discontinued and they have to get a new plan. The letter never brings the ACA up again directly. This is legal because Highmark never directly states there is a cause and effect relationship between the ACA and them discontinuing the current plan in order to up sell my friend to a more expensive plan with less coverage. If they did make that claim they would be in big trouble for false advertising.

      On top of that, if the plan in question was in violation of the ACA that would mean that it has something like a lifetime limit on how much they will spend on you or something like that. Also, the letter I saw said they can keep their current plan until something like 2015. If it was in violation of the ACA the plan would have to be discontinued by the beginning of this coming Jan, not in Jan 2015, so the first sentence of the letter is clearly a misdirection.

      I’m sure there are some people who are getting ripped off on horrible plans that are not ACA compliant, and they will have to change to a better plan. I just don’t think people are loosing good plans over the ACA.

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