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.
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.