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.
The World Privacy Forum filed comments with the Department of Transportation today regarding the department’s publication of the detailed personal medical information of individuals subject to DOT regulations in the Federal Register along with their names, ages, and other identifying information. The WPF comments argue that personal medical information combined with name, age, etc. does not belong in the Federal Register, where it can have potentially far-reaching consequences for those individuals who are named as well as their family members.
e-Government /CIPSEA — The World Privacy Forum submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget regarding proposed guidance on Title V of the e-Government Act. The proposed guidance did not address the relationship between CIPSEA and the USA PATRIOT Act Section 215, and guidance regarding identifiability and the Privacy Act of 1974 needs to be further refined. WPF suggests that OMB consider developing a formal statistical confidentiality seal controlled by a federal agency. The purpose would be to provide an identifiable marker that would tell individuals if the information they provide will receive the highest degree of confidentiality protection available under law.
Medical privacy | Medicare Part D — In comments filed with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the World Privacy Forum requested that CMS give effect to data restrictions that Congress has expressly included in the law. WPF also requested that CMS include in its standard agreements for use of CMS data a requirement that the recipient obtain a certification of confidentiality for all identifiable CMS data. WPF also requested that CMS perform a regulatory impact analysis and publish a system of records notice.
Privacy Act of 1974 — The Department of Justice published a notice proposing to update the Routine Uses of its systems and databases under the Privacy Act of 1974. The proposal was not precise enough, and was written in such a way as to allow sensitive Privacy Act systems such as the Criminal Division Witness Security File (CRM-002), the Witness Immunity Records (CRM-022), and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS, FBI-018) to be disclosed to almost anyone in certain circumstances, including to individuals working outside of law enforcement. The World Privacy Forum is requesting that the DOJ significantly tighten its language in the proposal, and to specify what individuals or entities may have access to these sensitive records, under what specific conditions. The World Privacy Forum is also requesting the DOJ republish all of its up-to-date system of records notices in their entirety immediately and at least every two years thereafter.