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    Archive for the ‘Medical data’ Category

    Continuing Debate on Privacy and Use of Newborns’ Blood Samples

    Monday, December 1st, 2014

    There has been considerable debate about the ethical, privacy, and civil liberty issues surrounding the unauthorized or unknowing retention and use of babies’ blood samples for purposes other than disease-screening in the United States and abroad. Often, parents are not told of the possible lengthy data retention period, possible distribution to other agencies, and possible other purposes for which their children’s blood samples could be used. Now, WNCN in North Carolina looks at the situation, and what it finds shows there are also questions about de-identification or “anonymization” of newborns’ medical data.

    Asked what the government plans to do with the data, Scott Zimmerman, director of the N.C. State Public Health Lab, said, “So if an outside agency such as an academic institution approaches us and asks for dried blood spots, there are two approaches that can be taken. One, we can get parental consent to release that dried blood sample to an outside entity. We will not release any DBS that contains patient information without parental consent.”

    Zimmerman added, “The only other way DBS are released is if they are de-identified.”

    Researchers have shown that, often, data that has been de-identified can be re-identified (or “de-anonymized”), and sensitive data could be linked back to an individual. Therefore, there is a significant privacy concern for individuals’ whose information is shared, without their consent, in this manner.  Read more »

    New York Times: Oops! Health Insurer Exposes Member Data

    Thursday, November 13th, 2014

    The New York Times reports that health insurance company Anthem Blue Cross sent e-mails to some customers that contained sensitive information in the subject lines:

    On Monday, in a similar error, some California residents received emails from their health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, with personal details about them contained in the subject line.

    The text of the emails encouraged members to visit their doctors for checkups and to discuss certain medical screening tests. [...]

    But the emails’ subject lines included member-specific demographic details like age range and language. They also listed possible medical screening tests — marked “Y” for recommended tests and “N” for tests not listed in the email. [...] Read more »

    Fortune: What’s behind the dramatic rise in medical identity theft?

    Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

    Fortune reports on an increase in cases of medical identity theft in the United States, which has implications for patients’ health privacy:

    In the last five years, the number of data breaches in the medical sector has quadrupled. Last year, for the first time, the medical sector experienced more breaches than any other. It’s again on track to lead in 2014, according to the ID Theft Center. While the health care industry has long suffered fraud by providers or employees fraudulently billing insurers, Medicare, or Medicaid, the medical industry is only just now trying to catch up to the quickly growing threat from hackers.

    With the increasing digitization of health information (in the form of electronic health records) and the formation of health exchanges (due to the Affordable Care Act), the trend in medical identity theft is unlikely to abate any time soon. Personal medical information is useful to many different types of criminals, which is why it fetches a higher price on the black market than financial information. Read more »

    IT News (Australia): NSW to add offshore data rules into privacy legislation

    Monday, October 20th, 2014

    IT News in Australia reports that New South Wales Attorney-General Brad Hazzard is considering new privacy rules for the storing of data offshore:

    The office of NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard has confirmed the government’s intentions to update the state’s privacy legislation to make it clear where agencies and healthcare providers stand when it comes to storing data offshore, particularly as part of cloud computing arrangements.

    The NSW Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Coombs, finalised her draft code of practice for offshore data hosting and handed it to the Attorney-General in May this year, after a number of aborted attempts by her predecessors. [...] Read more »

    ESPN: NBA players union wants to ensure privacy in data collection

    Friday, October 10th, 2014

    ESPN reports that the NBA’s players union is considering players’ privacy rights as teams increasingly track players’ on- and off-court activities:

    As NBA teams use increased technology to track players on and off the court, the players’ union wants to ensure that privacy is still being protected.

    Franchises have been scrutinizing player movement on the court since the 2012-13 season, but data collection has also recently extended beyond the hardwood. Various teams have begun experimenting with sleep trackers, off-court movement monitors and fluid tests — including blood and sweat — in order to improve player health and performance.

    These developments have happened so quickly and quietly, however, that the National Basketball Players Association was not aware of these widespread biometric advances, and had not established a position on the issue, until ESPN The Magazine approached the union for comment in August. Read more »

    Vox: 23andMe reverses its decision to move to more lax privacy settings

    Thursday, September 18th, 2014

    Vox reports on a decision concerning the privacy of medical data by by genetics testing company 23andMe:

    The personal genetics testing company 23andMe is reversing plans to make a major change to its privacy settings, after a Vox story raised concerns about the move.

    On September 9, we published a feature about some of the pitfalls of personal DNA testing, with a focus on 23andMe, a leading company in the field. We talked to some people who used 23andMe and ended up unexpectedly finding close family members they didn’t know they had. In one case, a professor’s parents divorced after the site revealed that his father had a child before he was married. We reported that 23andMe was planning to alter its user settings in a way that could make these unexpected reunions happen more frequently. [...]

    But, because of concerns raised by the Vox story, the company reversed its decision to make those changes. It is also going to hire a Chief Privacy Officer.

    Read the Vox story for the full statement from the 23andMe chief executive.