Data Mining Case Heads to the Supreme Court

Two major publishers of health care data filed a petition Friday at the Supreme Court, raising cutting-edge questions about whether increasingly widespread data mining that is used for commercial purposes is protected by the First Amendment.

Two major publishers of health care data filed a petition Friday at the Supreme Court, raising cutting-edge questions about whether increasingly widespread data mining that is used for commercial purposes is protected by the First Amendment.

The petition, titled IMS Health, Inc. and Verispan LLC v. Ayotte, is an appeal of a controversial ruling last November by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals panel ruled that the data about drug prescriptions gathered by the companies is outside the protection of the First Amendment, in part because it has “scant societal value,” in the same way that obscenity is not protected speech. The ruling written by Judge Bruce Selya said the pharmaceutical data at issue in the case was to be viewed, not as speech, but as a commodity like “beef jerky” that can be regulated without running afoul of the First Amendment.

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