Former Talkspace employees claim mobile therapy company mines transcripts for marketing purposes 

Former Talkspace employees and therapists claim that the mobile-based therapy company routinely reviewed users’ anonymized conversations to tailor marketing initiatives and better target new customers, according to an Aug. 7 New York Times report. 

Talkspace’s privacy policy states that the company can use “non-identifying and aggregate information” “to better design” its website and support “research and trend analysis,” according to the report. However, two former employees told the Times that Talkspace’s data scientists mine client transcripts and share common phrases with the company’s marketing team to better attract potential customers. 

Talkspace denied the former employees’ claims, and the company’s lawyer John Reilly told the publication: “We are a data-focused company, and data science and clinical leadership will from time to time share insights with their colleagues,” he said. “This can include evaluating critical information that can help us improve best practices. It never has and never will be used for marketing purposes.” 

Karissa Brennan, a New York-based therapist who provided services via Talkspace from 2015-17, said that after providing a client with links to resources outside of Talkspace, a company representative contacted her and told her to try and keep clients on the app. Ms. Brennan said Talkspace claimed client transcripts were private, and Talkspace said this instance only happens if an algorithm flags the interaction for a certain reason, such as a therapist recommending medical marijuana to a client, according to the report. 

The company has also been reviewing transcripts to create bots that monitor and support therapists’ work on the text messaging platform. These bots are designed to detect cues that indicate a client may be in distress, which might otherwise be missed during a text conversation as opposed to an in-person session. 

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