Facebook has been in contact with “several major US hospitals” as part of now-cancelled plans to combine patients’ anonymized information with Facebook’s own user data as part of a research project
“This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared, or analyzed anyone’s data,” an unnamed Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.
“The medical industry has long understood that there are general health benefits to having a close-knit circle of family and friends,” Facebook added in a statement. “But deeper research into this link is needed to help medical professionals develop specific treatment and intervention plans that take social connection into account.”
The setup reportedly would have “obscured” any personal information but also sought to match individuals via hashed names located in both datasets.
The plan, which was to be headed by Freddy Abnousi, an “interventional cardiologist,” was designed to figure out whether this “combined information could improve patient care.”
Previously, Dr. Abnousi was involved in a “hear-through-your-skin” project, according to Business Insider.
He works in Facebook’s “Building 8,” which the company describes as and internal division designed to “create and ship new, category-defining consumer hardware products that are social first.”
The revelation came the same day that Sheryl Sandberg, a top Facebook executive, echoed CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments Wednesday that the company had made “mistakes” in the wake of allowing Cambridge Analytica to access as much data as it did.
“When Cambridge Analytica first happened, it was a mistake for Mark and me not to speak out earlier and faster,” she told the Financial Times. “We wanted to make sure we knew exactly what happened [before we spoke].”
Facebook did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.