Common Rule

WPF urges Big Data approach that addresses vulnerable populations

The World Privacy Forum’s recent public comments to the White House regarding Big Data focus on using a foundation of Fair Information Principles to address issues connected to bias, error, and privacy regarding big data as applied to vulnerable populations. The comments also discuss large medical research data sets, and stress the importance of applying

Public Comments: May 2012 – WPF Asks Presidential Commission to Protect Genetic Privacy

WPF filed comments with the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethics today urging the Commission to recognize the need for enhanced genetic privacy protections in a digital world. WPF noted that “The increasing identifiability of genetic data presents major privacy issues for research activities that must be acknowledged and addressed.” WPF suggested four key ways that Certificate of Confidentiality programs could be enhanced for privacy protection, and urged the Commission to speak out about the importance of protecting patient privacy in research activities involving genetic information. “The Commission should advocate providing patients with reasonable controls over research uses of their data as electronic records develop and spread throughout the health care system.” Public comments may be submitted to the Commission until May 25, 2012.

WPF urges HHS to do more to protect the privacy of people who are medical research subjects

Common Rule | Health Privacy — The World Privacy Forum filed extensive comments with the US Department of Health and Human Services about its proposed changes regarding the rules governing human subject medical research. In the comments, WPF noted that the HHS approach to privacy for research subjects was incomplete and did not use all Fair Information Practices. WPF strongly urged HHS to revise its proposal on a number of issues, including consent and the use of biospecimens in research. The World Privacy Forum is urging HHS to acknowledge that the realm of health data that is truly non-identifiable has shrunken remarkably, for example, biospecimens with DNA cannot be considered non-identifiable anymore. “In our comments, we are requesting that HHS give individuals the opportunity to make choices about the use of their own health data and specimens,” said Executive director Pam Dixon. WPF also stated in its comments that “A central database with identifiable information about participants in human subjects research is a terrible idea.” (See p. 21 of WPF comments.)

Public Comments: October 2011 – WPF urges HHS to do more to protect the privacy of medical research subjects

The World Privacy Forum filed extensive comments with the US Department of Health and Human Services about its proposed changes regarding the rules governing human subject medical research. In the comments, WPF noted that the HHS approach to privacy for research subjects was incomplete and did not use all Fair Information Practices. WPF strongly urged HHS to revise its proposal on a number of issues, including consent and the use of biospecimens in research. The World Privacy Forum is urging HHS to acknowledge that the realm of health data that is truly non-identifiable has shrunken remarkably, for example, biospecimens with DNA cannot be considered non-identifiable anymore. “In our comments, we are requesting that HHS give individuals the opportunity to make choices about the use of their own health data and specimens,” said Executive director Pam Dixon. WPF also stated in its comments that “A central database with identifiable information about participants in human subjects research is a terrible idea.” (See p. 21 of WPF comments.)

Public Comments: December 2008 – GINA – Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

In response to a Request for Information (RFI) from U.S. federal agencies regarding the recently passed GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act), the World Privacy Forum filed a detailed response with suggestions on what aspects of GINA need clarification. The comments focus on a number of privacy issues the RFI raised, including model privacy notices and the issue of what the GINA statute calls “incidental collection” of genetic information. Currently, GINA states that some kinds of information are exempted from being considered as regulated for medical underwriting purposes. For example, medical information gleaned about patients for underwriting purposes from medical databases is regulated. But medical information gleaned about patients for underwriting purposes from, for example, marketing lists containing robust patient information may be unregulated if the law is not clarified in the regulatory process. The World Privacy Forum urged HHS and the Department of Labor to substantially clarify what constitutes “incidental collection,” and urged the agencies to consider lists containing identifiable patient information to be considered in the same category as a “medical database.”