Dr. Mehmet Oz—a New Jersey resident running for Senate in Pennsylvania—is the co-founder of a medical data company whose business model of harvesting your private medical information for profit could potentially be used to track abortion patients. The TV huckster co-founded ShareCare in 2010 with WebMD founder Jeff Arnold and a consortium that included Oprah Winfrey.
In the past few years, the app, which lets customers ask health-related questions from organizations like AARP or the American Heart Association, has faced a data breach and a number of lawsuits, one in which they admitted to selling customers’ phone numbers. (The app also lets companies pay between $1 million and $7 million to be labeled as a “knowledge partner”—which gives them the ability to market products to ShareCare customers.) Considering Oz’s former company has access to data that could potentially track abortion seekers, it’s critical to examine the anti-abortion doctor’s business past.
Oz was listed as co-founder on ShareCare’s website as late as September 30, 2020, according to the Wayback Machine, an Internet Archive product that captures websites in real-time. And he was listed as a director at ShareCare from November 2009 until July 2021, according to financial disclosures. He went on to announce his Senate run on November 30, 2021.
It was during this period that ShareCare’s data was breached. In May 2018, hackers accessed sensitive patient information of at least 23,916 patients who weren’t notified until eight months after the fact. “[ShareCare Health Data Services] has reassessed its data retention policies and improved its maintenance communications and protocols. SHDS has hired a third-party firm to monitor its data systems around the clock as an extra precaution,” the company said, according to a report on the attack.
Despite their “extra precautions,” the company seems to be continuously sloppy with the sensitive data entrusted to them. By 2020, ShareCare and the City of Chicago were sued by City of Chicago Employees for sharing medical information that was collected during mandatory exams when the employees had a higher risk of disease or a higher number of insurance claims. (The case is pending.) Also, during a class-action lawsuit in 2020, ShareCare admitted it sold customer numbers from the Do Not Call Registry to telemarketing companies without permission.
This brings us to the app’s potential tracking concerns. Reproductive healthcare is one area patients can add sensitive data through ShareCare’s desktop and mobile tools. When you log into the dashboard, a number of typical yet troubling health categories, pop up. First is medication, with a spot to add birth control and keep track of whether or not you’ve taken it. ShareCare also lets you add medications like levonorgestrel (the morning after pill), mifepristone, or misoprostol, under the guise of helping a patient make sure they’ve taken their meds. ShareCare’s apparatus leaves digital traces of your reproductive health care, making it yet another system that potentially puts patients at risk.
Oz announced his Senate run with all the trappings of a pro-Trump Republican candidate. The heart surgeon-turned-TV personality is, of course, anti-abortion. When the Dobbs decision confirmed the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion, Oz celebrated. “As we lift up life, we must focus on the needs of mothers and children, for whom this decision can be the greatest gift of all,” he tweeted on June 24.
The company that made him millions is yet another untrustworthy healthcare tracking company eager to sell data or leave it for the taking. Nothing says anti-establishment candidate quite like making millions off the data of the normies, huh?