Fountain of youth?

Depending on your point of view, you may think that the online age quiz, RealAge, can help you live a longer healthier life, or invade your privacy and expose you to marketing emails to sell you drugs from the big pharmaceutical companies.

Americans yearn to be young. So it is little wonder that RealAge, which promises to help shave years off your age, has become one of the most popular tests on the Internet.

While few people would fill out a detailed questionnaire about their health and hand it over to a drug company looking for suggestions for new medications, that is essentially what RealAge is doing.

The test has received widespread publicity because of its affiliation with Dr. Mehmet Oz, a popular author and regular on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Whether they are attracted by Dr. Oz’s appeal or by the ads all over the Internet for the test, people come to the site, then provide an e-mail address to take it. They are asked throughout the test if they would like a free RealAge membership. If people answer yes to any of the prompts, they become RealAge members, and their test results go into a marketing database.

RealAge allows drug companies to send e-mail messages based on those test results. It acts as a clearinghouse for drug companies, including Pfizer, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, allowing them to use almost any combination of answers from the test to find people to market to, including whether someone is taking antidepressants, how sexually active they are and even if their marriage is happy.

From The New York Times.

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