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.
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.