Wall Street Journal Expose: Your Boss Might Be Trying to Access Your Birth-Control Schedule

Investigative story reveals how some employers are mining their workers' data.

Contraceptive Pill with English Instructions..
Photo Credit: areeya_ann

An article in the Wall Street Journal documents how some companies are mining data about their workers' personal health in an attempt to keep their insurance costs down.

"Bosses Harness Big Data to Predict Which Workers Might Get Sick," by Rachel Emma Silverman, explains how some businesses are hiring firms to dig up information about their employees' prescription drug use, risk for disease and other personal tidbits. The employers claim it's simply a new method to keep healthcare costs down and improve the well-being of their staff members.

However, as Silverman points out, employers are blocked from accessing workers' personal health information under federal law. This requires the companies to hire outside firms like Castlight Healthcare Inc., Jiff Inc. and ActiveHealth Management Inc. to dig up the dirt.

"Typically, when a company hires a firm like Castlight, Jiff Inc. or ActiveHealth Management Inc.," Silverman writes, "it authorizes the firm to collect information from insurers and other health companies that work with the client company. Employees are prompted to grant the firm permission to send them health and wellness information via an app, email or other channels, but can opt out."

In one particularly amazing revelation, Silverman writes that Castlight has recently started examining employees' birth-control choices: "To determine which employees might soon get pregnant, Castlight recently launched a new product that scans insurance claims to find women who have stopped filling birth-control prescriptions, as well as women who have made fertility-related searches on Castlight’s health app."

Read the entire piece at the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Arria is an associate editor at AlterNet and AlterNet's labor editorFollow @MichaelArria on Twitter.

Stay Ahead of the Rest
Sign Up for AlterNet's Daily Newsletter
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Rights & Liberties
Personal Health