Health websites criticised for not following online privacy law

Healthcare providers and medical information websites have been criticised by the consumer watchdog for routinely breaching the privacy of people using their services online.

The Consumentenbond said the sites were placing cookies on their web pages that allowed third-party sites, such as Google, to track people’s internet use without their consent.

Some sites failed to carry ‘cookie warning’ pages, which are required by law and allow users to opt out of accepting cookies, but even those that did had often already placed the cookie on the user’s computer before giving them the choice.

The offending sites included healthcare institutions such as Jellinek and the Lung Foundation (Longfonds), but also information sites such as

Tracker cookies are used by online advertisers such as Google to monitor people’s internet use and place targeted adverts on their clients’ web pages.

None of the 20 sites surveyed had a complete statement of their privacy policy and some sites lacked a secured area for personal details.

The watchdog said some sites had improved their practices since the survey was carried out. Jellinek said it had removed tracker cookies after consulting with the Consumentenbond. ‘We weren’t aware of this,’ a spokesman told NOS.

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