Sensitive data on Facebook pregnancy groups

With digital natives now entering their childbearing years, more and more pregnant couples rely on the internet to get advice about maternity. But Facebook support groups can easily be infiltrated by third parties with questionable intentions.

Marta Tuul
Marta Tuul Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
Sensitive data on Facebook pregnancy groups - NewsMavens
Pregnant woman working. Burst.

Why this story matters:

According to an investigation by Eesti Ekspress, many pregnancy groups on Facebook ask for private health data, like pregnancy cards and ultrasounds, as a way to verify if their members are truly pregnant. Many group members also share intimate family photos.

It turns out these behaviors are not without risk.

In Sweden, a group for expecting fathers was responsible for leaking naked pictures of pregnant women.

There are also cases when group members fake a pregnancy or a miscarriage in order to receive sympathy and entice other users into sharing more information about themselves. 

Overall, participants in these Facebook support groups were found to be sharing large amount of sensitive and emotionally charged health data -- a dangerous behavior considering Facebook's track record.

Details from the story:

  • Some groups require health records to confirm a woman's pregnancy. Some require women to fill out an Excel table with the stage of their pregnancy and their home address.
  • Once a person is accepted in a Facebook pregnancy group, they have access to sensitive data, including intimate photographs.
  • It is legal to request personal data, but there are laws regulating how this data can be stored. The individuals who administer these Facebook groups are unlikely to be able to store the data in optimal conditions.
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