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BetterHelp To Pay Over $7.8 million to settle Federal Trade Commission Allegations Sharing Consumers’ Health Data Third Parties for Advertising

Customers of BetterHelp will receive notifications regarding refunds linked to a privacy settlement reached with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). BetterHelp has committed to paying $7.8 million to resolve allegations by the FTC that the online therapy platform utilized and disclosed consumers' health data for advertising purposes.




Approximately 800,000 individuals will start receiving notifications informing them of their qualification for refunds. This follows the Federal Trade Commission's settlement with BetterHelp in 2023, where the online therapy platform was accused of utilizing and disclosing consumers' health data, including sensitive details regarding their mental well-being, to third-party entities for promotional purposes.


In March 2023, the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed order aimed at prohibiting BetterHelp, Inc., an online counseling service, from sharing consumers' health data, which included sensitive details about mental health issues, for advertising purposes. The proposed order also mandated the company to compensate consumers with a multimillion-dollar settlement for allegedly disclosing their sensitive information to third-party platforms like Facebook and Snapchat for promotional activities, despite assurances of keeping such data confidential.


This marked the first instance where the Commission toke steps to reimburse consumers whose health data was compromised. Furthermore, the FTC's proposed order will bar BetterHelp from divulging consumers' personal information to specific third parties for re-targeting purposes, which involves directing advertisements to individuals who have previously visited BetterHelp's website or used its app, even if they haven't enrolled in the counseling service.


"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,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Instead, BetterHelp betrayed consumers’ most personal health information for profit. Let this proposed order be a stout reminder that the FTC will prioritize defending Americans’ sensitive data from illegal exploitation."



Based in California, BetterHelp operates online counseling services under various names, including BetterHelp Counseling, and tailors its services to specific demographics. This includes Faithful Counseling, which caters to Christians, Teen Counseling requiring parental consent for teenagers, and Pride Counseling aimed at the LGBTQ community. Prospective users of BetterHelp must complete a questionnaire soliciting sensitive mental health information, such as experiences with depression, thoughts of suicide, and current medications, along with providing personal details like name, email, and birth date. Upon completion, users are matched with a counselor and pay a weekly fee ranging from $60 to $90 for counseling sessions.


Throughout the sign-up process, BetterHelp assured users that their personal health data would only be used for specific purposes, primarily for delivering counseling services. Despite these assurances, BetterHelp allegedly shared consumers' email addresses, IP addresses, and health questionnaire responses with platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Criteo, and Pinterest for promotional activities, as per the FTC's allegations.


For instance, the company utilized consumers' email addresses and their therapy history to direct Facebook to target similar individuals with ads for BetterHelp's counseling services. This strategy reportedly contributed to the acquisition of tens of thousands of new paying users and generated substantial revenue for the company.


As per the complaint, BetterHelp encouraged consumers to disclose their health details by repeatedly presenting them with misleading privacy information and prompting them incessantly to sign up for its counseling services. Despite the collection of such sensitive data, BetterHelp lacked adequate policies or procedures to safeguard it and failed to secure consumers' explicit consent before sharing their health information. Moreover, BetterHelp neglected to impose restrictions on how third parties could utilize consumers' health data, enabling platforms like Facebook to utilize this information for various internal purposes, such as research, development, or enhancing advertising strategies.


Furthermore, the complaint alleges that in 2020, BetterHelp deceived users and the public by falsely refuting news reports that it had disclosed consumers' personal information, including health data, to third parties.


Those eligible for payments are individuals who subscribed to and paid for services on the BetterHelp website between August 1, 2017, and December 31, 2020. Apart from prohibiting BetterHelp from disclosing health information for advertising purposes, the proposed order mandates several actions, including:


- Requiring explicit consent before disclosing personal information to specific third parties for any reason.

- Implementing a comprehensive privacy program with robust measures to safeguard consumer data.

- Instructing third parties to delete consumer health and personal data disclosed by BetterHelp.

- Setting limits on the duration for which personal and health information can be retained based on a data retention schedule.


Eligible consumers will receive emails regarding their payment from an independent redress administrator, Ankura Consulting Group. This email will present various payment options. Those who take no action will receive payment via PayPal at the email address where they received the notification. Consumers wishing to opt for a different payment method, such as a check or Zelle payment, will have until June 10, 2024, to make their selection. The administrator aims to distribute all payments during the summer.



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