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Suicide Hotlines Promise Anonymity. Dozens of Their Websites Send Sensitive Data to Facebook

The Markup – This article was copublished with STAT, a national publication that delivers trusted and authoritative journalism about health, medicine, and the life sciences. “Websites for mental health crisis resources across the country—which promise anonymity for visitors, many of whom are at a desperate moment in their lives—have been quietly sending sensitive visitor data to Facebook, The Markup has found. Dozens of websites tied to the national mental health crisis 988 hotline, which launched last summer, transmit the data through a tool called the Meta Pixel, according to testing conducted by The Markup. That data often included signals to Facebook when visitors attempted to dial for mental health emergencies by tapping on dedicated call buttons on the websites. In some cases, filling out contact forms on the sites transmitted hashed but easily unscrambled names and email addresses to Facebook.  See the full data here. GitHub.The Markup tested 186 local crisis center websites under the umbrella of the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Calls to the national 988 line are routed to these centers based on the area code of the caller. The organizations often also operate their own crisis lines and provide other social services to their communities. The Markup’s testing revealed that more than 30 crisis center websites employed the Meta Pixel, formerly called the Facebook Pixel. The pixel, a short snippet of code included on a webpage that enables advertising on Facebook, is a free and widely used tool. A 2020 Markup investigation found that 30 percent of the web’s most popular sites use it..”

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