Beware this Therapy falls outside of the Privacy Rule mandates

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 LinkedIn 0 Email -- 0 Flares ×

At online therapy apps, employees may be reading your sessions

By Sarah Kessler

We know that tech companies cooperated with a secret government surveillance program, that Uber employees have searched for specific passengers’ travel information, and that information is frequently stolen and leaked online (including potentially embarrassing personal details). But somehow, still, hundreds of thousands of people are creating transcripts of their deepest secrets and inner turmoil through online therapy apps.

Unsurprisingly, potential privacy issues have emerged.

In a detailed report that exposes ethical gray areas and possible worker misclassification issues at Talkspace—which matches clients with therapists for unlimited text-, video-, or audio-message exchanges for $32 per week—Cat Ferguson, a reporter at the Verge, also found a lack of clarity about how company employees access discussions between therapists and clients.

Talkspace, which on its website claims to have 300,000 active users, reportedly sent emails reprimanding several therapists who told their clients that they would stop working for the service and offered them the option to switch to a new service. “As for how Talkspace found out about the therapists telling clients they’d leave,” Ferguson writes, “it is not clear who can read patient conversations or when.” Ferguson reports that the company updated its terms of service in October to mention that Talkspace employees may read sessions during certain circumstances, including “quality assurance.”

Health privacy laws require health providers to put procedures in place such as encryption to limit who can view and access individually identifiable health information. They do allow health operators to access health information without notice for reasons including “quality assessment and improvement activities, including case management and care coordination” and “competency assurance activities,” but psychotherapy notes are treated specially under the laws. According to the Department of Health and Human Services website, “with few exceptions, the Privacy Rule requires a covered entity to obtain a patient’s authorization prior to a disclosure of psychotherapy notes for any reason.”

But apps like Talkspace don’t necessarily fall under these laws, because they are neither hospitals nor insurance companies, according to Jason Wang, the CEO and founder of a HIPAA-compliant database called TrueVault that stores patient data for health and fitness apps. “Talkspace merely connects their users with independent therapists, and provides the necessary apps and tools for the two sides to communicate,” he says. “This definitely puts Talkspace outside of the Privacy Rule mandates.”

Betterhelp, an online therapy app similar to Talkspace says it has 500,000 registered users, has a similar clause in its privacy policy, which states that other workers may read sessions for reasons including to “supervise” or “monitor:”

Breakthrough, an online therapy service offered by virtual care provider MDlive, sets up live video sessions with clients rather than using Talkspace’s system of asynchronous message exchanges. It notes in its terms of service that counseling sessions “are not recorded,” though messages between clients and therapists (which the service’s website encourages patients to use when describing their problems with prospective therapists), “may be monitored for quality assurance, training and other purposes.”

Read full article and learn more about Terms of Service and Privacy Policy here.

Here’s How To Make Sure You,
Your Business & Website Is FTC Compliant

By now it should be clear how important it is for you to be FTC compliant. But how can you do that without spending $7,500-$8,000 or more on Internet Attorneys?

Smart business owners around the world are doing it with the help of FTC Guardian.

FTC Guardian is a service that is 100% focused on helping to keep you get and stay FTC compliant and fully protected. And right now, we are offering a free training to give you the knowledge, information, and guidance that you need to stay out of trouble with the Federal Trade Commission.

The training is titled: 3 Tragic (Legal) Privacy Policy List Building Mistakes That Can Get You In Hot Water With The FTC Today – Resulting In Your Business Being Shut Down… And How To Solve It!

Here are some of the things you’ll discover on the training:

  • Real-Life Examples of People Who Didn’t Think They Were At Risk, But Who Got Nailed By The FTC, And Why It Could Happen To You, Too
  • Why 2014 Was a Significant Year For Online Businesses, And Why You Should Be Worried!
  • The 3 Enormous Powers The FTC Has That Can Change Your Life – And Your Family’s Life – Forever!
  • How to Avoid FTC Claims When Collecting Leads With Optin Forms
  • 3 Privacy Policy Mistakes Every Digital Marketer Is Making, And Why You're In The FTC Crosshairs.
  • And Much More…

Remember: legal protection is a massively important part of your business, and it’s one you cannot afford to ignore any longer.

Go here to register for our next FREE training and make your business is FTC compliant today!

Disclaimer:  This article is provided for informational purposes only. It’s not legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is created. Neither the author nor FTC Guardian, Inc. is endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 Google+ 0 LinkedIn 0 Email -- 0 Flares ×