EMRs could be fair game in war on terror

Is the government looking for terrorists in Americans’ electronic medical records? Admittedly, it’s an astonishing question, but for many months, this year and last, Congress was roiled in a contentious debate over the legality of a government electronic surveillance program in which, allegedly, the fiber-optic backbone of our nation’s telecommunications system was tapped as part of the war on terror.

Millions of medical records move over those fiber-optic lines, which sparked an interest in the implications of the war on terror for the privacy of those records. But tapping fiber-optic cables isn’t the only possible way for government intelligence services to access Americans’ private health information.

Opinions vary on the likelihood that the government is looking for terrorists in medical records. Some who have been interviewed for this story said flat out, “no way”; others, however, said they suspect the war on terror is being used as a cover for the mutual interests of the government, the healthcare data-mining industry and the fast-growing “surveillance industrial complex” to gain access to records that previously have been off-limits to them.

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