According to an article on the disabled veterans website, Facebook reportedly halted one of its “top secret” projects led by Dr. Freddy Abnousi, to correlate anonymized medical records with that of its user base using hashing to correlate the data with known identities of users.
Facebook, through a covert program run by a medical doctor, asked hospitals to share anonymized patient data in what could be classified as a Big Data workaround to evade HIPAA and HI-TECH legal issues that would arise when hospitals share raw data of its patients without a medically accepted purpose.
The “top secret” project headed by interventional cardiologist Freddy Abnousi. Dr. Abnousi was tasked with investigating whether Facebook information could “improve patient care, initially with a focus on cardiovascular health.” Over the past few months, Dr. Abnousi secretly asked Stanford Medical School, American College of Cardiology, and likely VA (yet to be confirmed if Palo Alto VA was solicited) to enter into a data sharing project.
The company specifically sought data about medical conditions and prescriptions. It then planned to correlate that data with patient data Facebook already has from users.
Even though the data from the medical centers would obscure personally identifiable information, ie patient’s name, Facebook planned to de-anonymize the data using “hashing,” a common computer science technique to match individuals with existing data sets. Facebook promised to only use the data for research conducted by the medical community (wink, wink).
After reports surfaced into Facebook’s mishandling of user data where 87 million users had their personalized data scraped by Cambridge Analytica, the project was shelved, at least that is what Facebook says.
In 2014, Facebook admitted it experimented with the newsfeed of 689,000 users to manipulate their emotions. The details of the experiment were published in an article entitled “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks” published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.