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Facebook wants you to check your cholesterol and book a mammogram

Facebook Preventative Health
(Image credit: Facebook)

Facebook is rolling out a new "Preventative Health" tool that will prompt you to book a flu shot, get your blood pressure tested and check your cholesterol. The rollout is beginning in the US, but may be extended elsewhere in the future.

As Engadget reports, this follows the success of Facebook's blood donation feature, which matches donors with blood banks and was introduced in the US earlier this year after its launch in India in 2017.

As its name suggests, the new tool will encourage you to attend scans and tests that can detect potential problems early, enabling you and your doctor to take action before they become anything serious.

The recommendations can be tailored according to your age and sex, and will focus on tests that can detect early signs of cancer and heart disease. The app will advise you when it's a good time to book a checkup, and send you a reminder close to the date. When it's done, you can tick it off as complete until next time it's due.

Doctor who?

Health is a deeply personal matter, and some people will no doubt have reservations about sharing details of their forthcoming cholesterol check with a company that's not known for its careful handling of their data.

Perhaps the biggest worry (particularly for users in the US) is that information about health concerns could find its way into the hands of insurance companies, which could then crank up charges or deny coverage.

Facebook has therefore decided to step in early and explain exactly how it will (and won't) use information about your well-being.

"Your activity within Preventive Health will not be posted publicly or shared with others," Facebook says. "Information you provide is securely stored and access is restricted to a group of people at Facebook who work on the product or maintain our systems."

"We don’t share personal information about your activity in Preventive Health with third parties, such as health organizations or insurance companies, so it can’t be used for purposes like insurance eligibility."

You can enter the dates and times of your tests, and mark them as done, but there's no way for Facebook to find out the results. You can tell friends and family about Preventative Health on your news feed, but doing so won't share your activity with them.

Facebook also won't use data from Preventative Health to target you with ads, though it's worth bearing in mind that visiting other websites or clicking links to health organizations' pages could affect the ads you see.