Did Tim Armstrong’s ‘Distressed Babies’ Comment Violate HIPAA Privacy Laws?

US citizens have a fundamental Constitutional right to health information privacy—but can’t easily sue. Only federal employees can sue under the Privacy Act of 1974, as vets did when a laptop with millions of health records was stolen. Even with strong state health privacy laws and state constitutional rights to privacy in place, it’s very hard to sue because most courts demand proof of monetary harm. This new digital disaster: exposing and/or selling sensitive personal health data–can’t be stopped without stronger, clearer federal laws. OR if US citizens boycott the corporations that violate their rights to health privacy.

-Deb

This blog written in response to the following article:

Did Tim Armstrong’s ‘Distressed Babies’ Comment Violate HIPAA Privacy Laws?
By Abby Ohlheiser
The Wire, February 10, 2014

Brokers Trade on Sensitive Medical Data with Little Oversight, Senate Says

“Marketers maintain databases that purport to track and sell the names of people who have diabetes, depression, and osteoporosis, as well as how often women visit a gynecologist, according to a Senate report published Wednesday.

The companies are part of a multibillion-dollar industry of “data brokers” that lives largely under the radar, the report says. The report by the Senate Commerce Committee says individuals don’t have a right to know what types of data the companies collect, how people are placed in categories, or who buys the information.

The report came in advance of a committee hearing on industry practices Wednesday afternoon.

The report doesn’t contain any new evidence of wrongdoing by the industry, but it underscores the tremendous increase in the sale and availability of consumer information in the digital age. An industry which began in the 1970s collecting data from public records to help marketers send direct mail has become an engine of a global $120 billion digital-advertising industry, helping marketers deliver increasingly targeted ads across the web and on mobile phones.”

To view the full article please visit: Brokers Trade on Sensitive Medical Data with Little Oversight, Senate Says

What a Small Moment in the Obamacare Debate Says About Ideological Media

Politics aside, a huge majority of the public agrees that ALL personal information should be protected online, not just when they apply for Obamacare, use electronic health systems, or search online about health.  The right to control the use of personal health data is strongly supported by 95% of Americans.

But like the public, the author doesn’t know that government and corporations already have access to every citizen’s personal health information. See: http://patientprivacyrights.org/truth-hipaa/  HIPAA has not protected our rights to health ‘privacy’ since 2002.

Key conclusions:

  • “The Bush and Obama Administrations both showed with perfect clarity that they don’t give a damn about the privacy rights of Americans; federal bureaucrats serving in both eras have broken the law to hoover up our private information; and every trend points to a federal government intent on expanding its ability to collect information on Americans and share it among agencies. The U.S. has also shown an inability to protect data it stores from being hacked or stolen. Given all that, it isn’t paranoid to imagine that any health information handed over to the federal government won’t remain private for long. A betting man would be wise to conclude that somehow or other, it will at least be seen more widely than Obama Administration officials are promising—especially if additional steps aren’t taken to make the information better protected.”
  • “Outsmarting the most hackish Republicans isn’t enough to fix the flaws in legislation that you championed and passed, substantial warts and all.”

Congress must pass a strong new law soon to giving patients a clear, strong right to control personal health information.  We should decide who can see and use our most sensitive personal information. The nation’s trust in government will only worsen if we cannot protect even our MOST sensitive personal data, from prescription records, to DNA to diagnoses.

deb

This blog was written in response to the following article: What a Small Moment in the Obamacare Debate Says About Ideological Media

Between Paranoia and Naivete

This op-ed was written by the political editor of the German paper ‘Die Zeit’. He summarizes the historical/cultural perspectives of Germany and the US regarding data protection and rights to control personal information in electronic systems.

He recommends both nation’s approaches should be on the table for discussion to decide “best practices” for data protection.

But he makes some key assertions I disagree with.

He states:

1) A future dictatorship’s use of Facebook would be “the least of your problems”.

  • But actually Facebook spying is very valuable to dictatorships because it reveals contacts and thoughts.

2) Citizens of “liberal societies” are not “experiencing a change in values” and “no longer feel uncomfortable sharing personal even private information”.

  • There is no change in values. Research shows people care just as much as they always have about privacy: ie control over what personal information they share with whom.  People care most about controlling who sees sensitive personal health data—but in the US we have no control.
  • The problem is that privacy/personal control over pii was not built into electronic systems.

3) Re: the Internet as an “emergent system” which “functions so well because it works equally for everybody” and “might cease to offer the greatest benefit for the greatest number”.

  • The Internet has already brought an “advantage to a minority–the rulers”.  He fails to recognize that the Internet is controlled and who controls it now.
  • Lawrence Lessig’s classic book “Code” explains that software and hardware, ie ‘code’ regulates the Internet and determines who controls it.  We must legislate/regulate technology in order to build a cyberspace that supports fundamental democratic rights and values.
  • The NSA/Verizon revelations are proof that a minority in fact control/rule the Internet to the detriment of all; and to the detriment of freedom and our human and civil rights to be “let alone”.

To view the full article, please visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/opinion/between-paranoia-and-naivete.html?_r=0#!

WH Initiative: Consumer Privacy Bill Of Rights

In a press release from the White House, February 22nd, 2012:

“The Obama Administration unveiled a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” as part of a comprehensive blueprint to protect individual privacy rights and give users more control over how their information is handled. This initiative seeks to protect all Americans from having their information misused by giving users new legal and technical tools to safeguard their privacy. The blueprint will guide efforts to protect privacy and assure continued innovation in the Internet economy by providing flexible implementation mechanisms to ensure privacy rules keep up with ever-changing technologies. As a world leader in the Internet marketplace, the Administration believes the United States has a special responsibility to develop privacy practices that meet global standards and establish effective online consumer protection. ”

To read more about the proposed bill here are some additional resources:

Read Fact Sheet

Read Full Proposal

Additional White House Press Release

View the Press Conference on CNN’s Video Library