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vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

FTC to Ban BetterHelp From Sharing Mental Health Data

FTC to Ban BetterHelp From Sharing Mental Health Data
Keira Waddell Published on 7th March 2023 Senior Writer

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that BetterHelp would be banned from sharing users’ mental health data with third-party advertisers. The move comes after an investigation by the FTC found that BetterHelp had shared users’ personal information without obtaining their consent. The order also requires BetterHelp to pay $7.8 million to settle the allegations.

The popular online therapy platform provides users with access to licensed mental health professionals. However, the FTC investigation has found that BetterHelp misled users by claiming that their personal information would be kept confidential and not shared with advertisers. In reality, BetterHelp was sharing user data with third parties for targeted advertising on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat.

As part of the settlement agreement, BetterHelp must obtain users’ express consent before sharing their personal information with any third party. It will also be required to implement a comprehensive data security program to safeguard user information, limit the period it is retained, and ensure it is not shared without consent. Finally, BetterHelp would have to reach out to any third party that has previously received user data and demand that the information is deleted.

The FTC’s official complaint stated that BetterHelp shared users’ email addresses, IP addresses, and information from a preliminary health questionnaire during signup, despite the company’s promises to keep the information confidential. It claims that third-party advertisers utilized this information for targeted advertising towards users with similar profiles.

The FTC further emphasized the importance of protecting users’ sensitive mental health information. It defines the behavior as "illegal" and warns that it can pose serious risks to the well-being of vulnerable people, potentially worsening their condition.

According to BetterHelp, it has agreed to pay $7.8 million in a settlement with the FTC, but it has not acknowledged any wrongdoing. It claims that its advertising strategy from 2017 to 2022 followed industry-standard practices used by major healthcare systems and providers within the US.

In a statement on its website, BetterHelp stated: “We do not share and have never shared with advertisers, publishers, social media platforms, or any other similar third parties, private information such as members’ names or clinical data from therapy sessions.”

The BetterHelp settlement highlights the growing concern regarding the buying and selling of sensitive mental health data.

About the Author

Keira is an experienced cybersecurity and tech writer dedicated to providing comprehensive insights on VPNs, online privacy, and internet censorship.