Suicide Hotline Collected, Monetized The Data Of Desperate People, Because Of Course It Did

Crisis Text Line, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit support options for the suicidal, is in some hot water. A Politico report last week highlighted how the company has been caught collecting and monetizing the data of callers… to create and market customer service software. More specifically, Crisis Text Line says it “anonymizes” some user and interaction data (ranging from the frequency certain words are used, to the type of distress users are experiencing) and sells it to a for-profit partner named Loris.ai. Crisis Text Line has a minority stake in Loris.ai, and gets a cut of their revenues in exchange.

As we’ve seen in countless privacy scandals before this one, the idea that this data is “anonymized” is once again held up as some kind of get out of jail free card:

“Crisis Text Line says any data it shares with that company, Loris.ai, has been wholly “anonymized,” stripped of any details that could be used to identify people who contacted the helpline in distress. Both entities say their goal is to improve the world — in Loris’ case, by making “customer support more human, empathetic, and scalable.”

But as we’ve noted more times than I can count, “anonymized” is effectively a meaningless term in the privacy realm. Study after study after study has shown that it’s relatively trivial to identify a user’s “anonymized” footprint when that data is combined with a variety of other datasets. For a long time the press couldn’t be bothered to point this out, something that’s thankfully starting to change.

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Source: Suicide Hotline Collected, Monetized The Data Of Desperate People, Because Of Course It Did | Techdirt

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