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.”
Genetic privacy — The World Privacy Forum participated in a Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) conference on genetic databases at New York University. The groundbreaking conference focused on key issues of race and genetic databases, fairness, accuracy, and privacy. The World Privacy Forum discussed a paper by Dr. Harry G. Levine, Drug Arrests and DNA, noting that innocent victims of medical identity theft may be arrested for the “drug seeking behavior” of the criminals impersonating them.
SACGHS | Oversight of genetic testing — The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society (SACGHS) released its final report on Oversight of Genetic Testing (U.S. System of Oversight of Genetic Testing: A Response to the Charge of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, April 2008, PDF, 276 pages). This is a substantial, thoughtful report that is likely to have a long-term impact on the field. The World Privacy Forum submitted formal written comments regarding this report when it was in draft form, and also appeared before the Committee in person in February of 2008 to discuss additional information relevant to the report. The final report reflects the World Privacy Forum comments and testimony. The report now includes a discussion about Direct to Consumer advertising and marketing as well as related privacy issues. The discussion in the final report also now acknowledges the implications of Direct to Consumer marketing of genetic tests regarding online privacy. The final report also reflects generally increased attention to privacy issues.
Health Care Innovations workshop — The World Privacy Forum will be speaking at an upcoming FTC workshop on the topics of medical identity theft, personal health records, and direct-to-consumer genetic tests and marketing. The workshop is April 24, 2008. Workshop information is available at the FTC web site.
Behaviorally targeted advertising | FTC proposed rules — The World Privacy Forum filed comments in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed self-regulatory guidelines for companies targeting online advertising to consumers based on consumer behaviors. The WPF requested a separate, formal rulemaking process for determining how sensitive medical information should be handled online regarding behaviorally targeted advertisements. The WPF also discussed genetic data and requests for genetic tests, and noted that genetic information should be included in any definition of sensitive medical information. The WPF reiterated that the definition of personally identifiable information should include IP address, and encouraged the FTC to work from a rights-based approach regarding online advertising. The WPF also urged the FTC to include all fair information practices in any self-regulatory regime, and to enforce the regime directly.