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.
National Disaster Medical System | Privacy Act of 1974 — The World Privacy Forum has filed public comments with the Department of Health and Human Services requesting that its new National Disaster Medical System protect all patient information to at least the baseline protections that HIPAA affords, including the HIPAA security and privacy protections. Currently, the new system does not do this, even though the system is housed at HHS, the agency which promulgated the HIPAA standards. The National Disaster Medical System currently contains overbroad routine uses which could potentially result in significant privacy and even public health issues. For example, public health information will not be able to be disclosed under the National Disaster Medical System as the system is currently organized. Additionally, some of the current routine uses in the system would authorize disclosures that would be illegal under HIPAA. For example, Congressional disclosure of a HIPAA record requires a written authorization, something the new system does not require.
Genetic privacy — Executive director Pam Dixon presented key issues and potential solutions regarding privacy and Genome Wide Association Studies at the Institute of Medicine’s Board on Health Sciences Policy meeting. Her presentation included recommendations to engage in a comprehensive study of certificates of confidentiality, to encourage standards of identifiability, to encourage study of what more uniform standards of privacy and security for researchers might look like, and a recommendation to work toward broad solutions that extend beyond GWAS activities.
information will expand greatly in the future. In public comments filed with the National Institutes of Health on pharmacogenomics (PGx) research, or research using genetic information to create highly personalized medicine, the World Privacy Forum recommended that all research activities that involve any type of patient-specific genetic information be required to have certificates of confidentiality, whether that information appears identifiable or not. The WPF also urged the NIH to require strong data use agreements to protect individuals’ privacy. The WPF also urged NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services to reinstate the position of “privacy advocate” so as to provide oversight in this area.
REAL ID | National ID — The World Privacy Forum and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed joint comments with the Department of Homeland Security about the proposed national ID system, REAL ID. The comments discuss the substantial flaws in the proposed REAL ID system including concerns about the overall structure of the program, the cards, the databases attached to the cards, the lack of controls on “function creep,” the possibilities for discrimination, the potential for increased risk of identity theft, issues related to potential gaps in coverage for recipients on Federal programs, among other issues.