Why GoodRx Emails Customers About Sharing Their Health Information

New York (CNN) GoodRx customers who typically receive prescription drug offer emails and refill reminders from the company saw something very different in their inboxes this week.

GoodRX sent a message to users detailing allegations by the Federal Trade Commission that the company shared sensitive health data with third parties for advertising purposes without customers’ permission.

“This information included details about the medications and health conditions people were applying for and their prescription medications,” the company wrote in the notice emailed to customers and posted on its website. “We shared this information with third parties, including Facebook. In some cases, GoodRx used the information to target people with health-related ads.”

The notice comes a month after the FTC announced a formal settlement with the digital health platform and issued a “first-of-its-kind proposed order” prohibiting the company from sharing the health data of its customers with other companies for advertising.

GoodRx has previously denied wrongdoing. “We do not agree with the FTC’s allegations and we admit no wrongdoing,” the company wrote in February. “Entering into the settlement allows us to avoid the time and expense of protracted litigation.”

GoodRX, available online and via a mobile app, offers telehealth visits and prescription drug coupons to users, but the FTC claims its privacy practices have been “not so good.”

The company said the timing of this week’s communications was specified in the FTC settlement.

Still, the notice seemed to catch some customers off guard. Users took to social media to express concern over the email, with some wondering how much money the firm could have made from their health data, and others vowing to use the service.

In addition to paying a $1.5 million civil penalty, the company has agreed to an order requiring other steps, including requiring third parties to delete consumer health data and create a “comprehensive privacy program.”

The FTC on Thursday also proposed a ban on BetterHelp sharing consumer data — including mental health information — for advertising purposes. BetterHelp will be required to pay $7.8 million to consumers to settle charges that it “disclosed consumers’ sensitive data with third parties,” including Facebook and Snapchat, according to the FTC.

“We understand the FTC’s desire to set new precedents around consumer marketing, and we are pleased to settle this matter with the agency,” BetterHelp said in a statement on its website. “This settlement, which is no admission of wrongdoing, allows us to continue to focus on our mission to help millions of people around the world access quality therapy.”

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