Press Releases

CMS Blog: Protecting Consumer Privacy on

CMS Blog: Protecting Consumer Privacy on
By Kevin Counihan, Director & Marketplace Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

As we prepared to serve consumers for 2015 Open Enrollment, we focused on what we could do to improve the consumer experience. This has included making it easier for consumers to get covered, increasing the speed and stability of, and making the site more secure. To do this, we listened to consumers, to stakeholders, and to experts from the public and private sectors. We learned about best practices, the improvements that were needed to make the user experience smoother, and what more we could do to protect consumers’ privacy. And we committed to making improvements along the way.

Based on this learning, we use some third party tools to do important things, like to get visibility into when consumers are having difficulty, or understand when website traffic is building during busy periods. We also educate those who are uninsured about the importance of health coverage, the role of the Marketplace, and the financial assistance available to Marketplace consumers. One of the most cost-effective and best ways to reach the uninsured is through digital media and advertising. To do this well, we have contracts with companies that help us to connect interested consumers to and continuously measure and improve site performance and our outreach efforts.

Earlier this week, questions were raised about our relationship with these companies, our privacy policies, and the technical way we were constructing our web page addresses, or URLs. We take these questions seriously, and immediately launched a review of our privacy policies, contracts for third-party tools and URL construction. We are looking at whether there are   additional steps we should take to improve our efforts. While this process is ongoing, we have taken action that we believe helps further increase consumer privacy.

For one specific tool, Window Shopping, we took an additional step to better protect consumers’ information by adding a layer of encryption that reduces the information available to the third party tools we use from our URLs.  The Window Shopping tool is an online calculator which allows a consumer to get an estimate of the cost of a policy by entering a zip code, income, age, and checking a box if you’re a smoker, parent or pregnant. It does not require the consumer to log in, enter their name or fill out an application for coverage. Previously, when a consumer got his or her results, it created a URL that included the data entered in the calculator. This URL is now encrypted and helps prevent third parties from viewing the data the consumer entered.

While we have taken steps to improve, we know building and maintaining a website is an evolving process. That’s what we’ve done by reviewing the tools on and by adding a layer of encryption to the URL on the Window Shopping tool. And that’s why we will continue this review and take any concerns raised about privacy seriously and will work to address them head on.