As the Atlantic Wire points out, one of Datalogix’s sources is the CVS ExtraCare card program, which catalogs regular drug purchases by members in order to reward them with discounts. Facebook is keeping the profiles anonymous, but the potential for abuse is significant.
Pharmaceutical industry giants spent about $1 billion on online advertisements in 2010, but are hobbled on social media by FDA guidelines that require the disclosure of all risks alongside benefits. Facebook helped Big Pharma satisfy this regulation by allowing drug companies to block comments on their Facebook pages and control their content. When Facebook eventually required them to open comments, many companies got rid of their pages — but according to some reports, Big Pharma representatives still kept tabs on Facebook groups and pages meant to offer support to people with health problems. This isn’t a new strategy; even before Facebook existed, companies sent representatives to milk cancer support groups. But on Facebook, it’s even easier to identify sick people vulnerable to certain types of marketing.
So Facebook’s consumer information allows pharmaceutical companies to maximize their social media influence without being directly involved in the data collection. By studying regular drug purchasing habits, a company can draw conclusions about the types of ailments and demographic traits that make someone more susceptible to their advertisements — all without actually violating the FDA’s advertising requirements.
You can opt out of Datalogix’ collection through this link.