With New Enforcement Action, FTC Warns Against Health Information Being Used for Advertising Purposes

If the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent pursuits did not make clear the agency’s deep concerns about the use of health information for advertising purposes, a new enforcement action brought by the FTC against BetterHelp – to the tune of $7.8 million – should leave no uncertainty.

Factual Allegations

BetterHelp provides online counseling services and also provides specialized services for various constituencies, including people of Christian faith, teens and the LGBTQ+ community. The advertising technology BetterHelp utilizes on its website collects a range of information from and about visitors. When consumers sign up for a BetterHelp account, that information includes email, IP addresses, and certain sensitive health information responsive to intake questions.

The complaint details the many strong privacy promises that BetterHelp made over time to consumers through statements made during the intake process and in various iterations of the privacy policies. For instance, at sign-up, consumers were asked about mental health issues and were told the information was “anonymous,” “strictly private” or “will stay

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