The online counseling service BetterHelp has agreed to return $7.8 million to customers to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for sharing health data it had promised to keep private — including information about mental health challenges — with companies including marketplace surabaya Facebook and Snapchat. The proposed FTC order announced Thursday also limits how the California-based company may share consumer data in the future.
BetterHelp said the settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing and that the behavior for which it was sanctioned is standard for the industry.
Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, however, said BetterHelp betrayed consumers’ most personal health information for profit.
“When a person struggling with mental health issues reaches out for help, they do so in a moment of vulnerability and with an expectation that professional counseling services will protect their privacy,” Levine said in a statement. Levine called the proposed order “a stout reminder that the FTC will prioritize defending Americans’ sensitive data from illegal exploitation.”
The enforcement action follows a similar one on Feb. 1 in which telehealth and prescription drug discount provider GoodRx Holdings was assessed a $1.7 million penalty for sharing users’ personal health data with Facebook, Google and other third parties without their consent.