"It is exceedingly difficult for people to seek mental-health information and for example take a 'depression test' without countless third parties watching."
When you go online to find mental health resources or information, there's a good chance that those websites are selling your personal information to third-party advertisers.
The non-profit group Privacy International investigated over 100 mental health-focused websites in the U.K., France, and Germany. It found that almost all of them sent user data straight to advertising companies and tech corporations, according to BBC News. It's a troubling finding, and one that suggests that even our more sensitive online activities are fair game to profit-hungry companies.
"It is exceedingly difficult for people to seek mental-health information and for example take a 'depression test' without countless third parties watching," Privacy International's director of corporate exploitation, Frederike Kaltheuner, told BBC.
Privacy International found that the average mental health site in France had a whopping 44 cookies that automatically begin tracking whoever visits. Sites in the U.K. had 12 cookies on average, and German sites had seven, BBC reports. That means that advertisers know exactly what it was that these people were searching for, what they clicked on, and what they typed into the websites, potentially revealing private medical concerns.
"We visit these sites and reveal so much about ourselves and that should not be used by companies we have never heard of to track you around the internet and use the data in an opaque advertising eco-system," Kaltheuner told the BBC.
READ MORE: Mental-health information 'sold to advertisers' [BBC News]
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