In January, former UCLA Healthcare System researcher Huping Zhou “pleaded guilty to violating parts of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,” reported L.A. Weekly. Now, the Los Angeles Times reports that Zhou “was sentenced to four months in federal prison Tuesday for illegally reading the confidential medical files of celebrities and other high-profile patients.” Zhou, who pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of privacy violations, “was the first person in the country to be sentenced to prison for such an offense, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.”
The Associated Press reports that “prosecutors claimed that before and after his 2003 firing, Zhou accessed private records of celebrities and co-workers more than 300 times.” Those celebrities included: Drew Barrymore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks, Sharon Osbourne, Barbara Walters, Elizabeth Banks, Leonardo DiCaprio and Anne Rice.
There have been numerous cases where insiders have been accused of or found to be abusing their access to data to violate individual privacy. Last year, a New York City police sergeant pleaded guilty “to illegally entering a federal database and giving information from a terrorist watch list to an acquaintance to use in a child-custody case in Canada,” reported the New York Times.
Also last year, the Boston Globe reported that the Massachusetts state auditor has found misuse by law enforcement officials of the criminal records system. Police pried into the personal data of Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, actor Matt Damon, Boston Celtics player Paul Pierce and others.