Better Privacy Ordered for Better Help
BetterHelp is an online mental health platform that connects consumers with licensed therapists. The company operates under different names for certain specialized services. For example, Faithful Counseling targets Christian consumers, Pride Counseling targets the LGBTQ community, and ReGain targets couples. All services require users to fill out an intake questionnaire which contains personal questions, such as whether a consumer is “experiencing overwhelming sadness, grief, or depression[.]” For years, BetterHelp misrepresented to consumers that it would never use or disclose personal health information except for counseling purposes. However, the FTC’s complaint alleges that the company gave users’ data, including contact information and intake questionnaire answers, to third-party advertisers, including Facebook, Snapchat, Criteo, and Pinterest. Further, in 2020, when news outlets reported that BetterHelp was sharing consumers’ personal information, the company denied all allegations.
The FTC’s proposed order requires that BetterHelp pay partial refunds to users in a three-year period and stop revealing health information for advertising purposes. Additionally, the proposed order instructs BetterHelp to limit its data retention practices, institute a comprehensive privacy program, obtain “Affirmative Express Consent” from users before sharing personal information for non-advertising purposes, and require third-party advertisers to delete personal data previously shared by the company.