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Why you shouldn't trust Dr Google

Why you shouldn't trust Dr GoogleThe first thing most of us do when we have a mysterious ache, pain, or other medical concern is ask Dr Google. This could be a terrible mistake, though, not just for your privacy, but for your financial future as well.

Motherboard outlines the risks of Googling symptoms and reading up on them at sites like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic. Essentially, it's the old problem of everyone tracking us on the web, but in this case, the tracking can be particularly harmful.

The problem is that even trusted sites like WebMD send health search data to data brokers like Experian, which in turn package all of the other data it collects on you-including your credit history-to sell to other companies.

"Experian is a data broker well known for selling credit scores-which include information on bankruptcies," (University of Pennsylvania researcher Tim) Libert said.

"Academic research by Senator Elizabeth Warren has shown that over 60% of bankruptcies are medical-related. Given that I found Experian tracking users on thousands of health-related web pages, it is entirely possible the company not only knows which individuals went bankrupt for medical reasons, but when they first went online to learn about their illness as well.

In essence Experian can follow an individual from her first sneeze to her final unpaid hospital bill." (Experian failed to respond when asked to comment.)

(EFF staff technologist Cooper) Quintin agrees this poses a real threat. "I would say that's totally possible." He suggests that it's plausible that the medical data these brokers vacuum up could eventually be factored into your credit score-and even used to determine how much you pay for health care.

This is all speculation, but the truth is we don't know how data brokers and insurers are using sensitive data-even if they're just web searches like this.

If you have to look up any medical symptoms, best to use a tracker-blocking add-on while you're at it. We mention a few options here.

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