Medicare – CMS — The World Privacy Forum filed extensive pubic comments on the substantive changes to the Medicare database release policy that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed in a System of Records Notice. As it currently stands, CMS is planning to release the individually identifiable protected health information of patients in the Medicare database to third parties in some circumstances. CMS has not established strong enough checks and controls on its release policy, and it has not explained how it is able to do this under HIPAA. The comments state that CMS has an obligation to explain how each routine use in its new policy is consistent with the authority in the HIPAA privacy rule. If a routine use allows disclosures that are broader than those permitted by HIPAA, then the routine use must be narrowed so that it is consistent with HIPAA. The comments also note that nothing in the CMS notice discusses substance abuse rules and other legal restrictions of the protected health data. The World Privacy Forum asked CMS to specify that the qualifications of any data aggregators who may potentially receive the data exclude any entity that sells other consumer data for any general business, credit, identification, or marketing purpose.
NHIN update — The National Health Information Network, or NHIN, is part of a major undertaking to digitize and network the health care sector. From electronic health records to multi-state health information hubs, the U.S. government’s goal is to modernize and move health care information from paper to digital. The Department of Health and Human Services is the primary mover behind this initiative, which is complex and multi-faceted. The World Privacy Forum keeps a chronology of NHIN events as a public service. The NHIN timeline has been updated to reflect changes in AHIC, a group that is charged in part with ensuring privacy and confidentiality in the NHIN and other aspects of health care modernization. AHIC is set to transition to a “public-private partnership,” a move that will need to be watched closely to ensure robust consumer involvement.
Consumer alert update — Monster.com posted a warning on its site stating that all users of Monster.com may have been impacted by the data breach of its systems by hackers. All job seekers need to be aware of potential phishing attacks that are sophisticated and highly targeted, and job seekers with safety considerations need to be aware that their information has likely been compromised. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has announced that the Federal job site USAJobs (which is outsourced to Monster.com) has also been impacted by the breach. The World Privacy Forum has updated its job seeking tips, and its consumer alert.
Consumer Alert | Internet privacy | Job search safety and privacy — The World Privacy Forum issued a consumer alert today warning about a data breach at Monster.com. Security firms that analyzed the breach have stated the breach impacts hundreds of thousands of job seekers. The immediate information that was stolen included job seekers’ home address, phone numbers, email address, and resume IDs. Some victims may have received further phishing emails. Job seekers who have safety concerns such as law enforcement professionals, victims of domestic violence and other victims of crimes such as stalking — who typically do not make their home addresses or personal phone numbers public — have an immediate need to know if their personal information may be in the hands of criminals. The consumer alert contains tips for victims and links to resources and more information.
Medical privacy | NCVHS | HIPAA — The World Privacy Forum has sent a letter to Dr. Simon P. Cohn, Chairman of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, supporting the Committee’s formal conclusion that all entities that create, compile, store, transmit, or use personally identifiable health information should be covered by a federal privacy law. More needs to be done about health care data that is left unprotected by HIPAA. The Forum’s letter included a discussion of two HHS programs that operate outside of HIPAA: FDA RiskMAPS, and the National Institutes of Health, which is not a covered entity under HIPAA.