Friday, October 8, 2010

Even the privacy breaches are bigger in Texas

Neil Versel of reports that there have been several severe privacy violations in Texas recently. It's not bad enough that Texas apparently is a hotbed for privacy violations, but one of the major perpetrators is the Texas Department of State Health Services. Not an agency to go about (alleged) wrongdoing in a small way, the TDSHS is selling and giving away information on 27,000,000+ hospital stays since 1999. Free information is anonmized, but according to Versel those willing to pay get all kinds of interesting information.:

DSHS makes public through its website files on more than 200 kinds of information, including individuals' insurance coverage, whether the stay involved placement of a heart stent, sterilization, abortion performed due to rape and any tests or medications delivered while in the hospital.

I suddenly have a morbid curiosity to see what information is available that the doctors didn't tell us from hospital stays over the past decade.

The second big violation was CVS Caremark pharmacies. CVS Caremark has allegedly been over-reaching their authority as required by the FTC when it approved the CVS / Caremark merger and capturing patient data for marketing and other purposes in violation of HIPAA laws. They are also accused of using their position and information to squeeze smaller pharmacies out.

Our last home grown privacy violation is from former state Representative Bill Zedler (R-Arlington). Mr. Zedler used his position to get the medical board records on five doctors. At least two of those doctors contributed to his campaign - the story doesn't say if it was before or after he accessed their records.

People wonder why privacy is important, and why it's important that our personal information be kept under our control. These are the reasons why. People, government agencies, and private corporations are profiting by gathering and selling our data. It's not unrealistic to say that in some cases they know more about us than we know about ourselves. That companies can gather, categorize and analyze personal information without our knowledge or consent and sell it to others not just for a profit - but without compensation to us, is wrong. And that's why privacy and privacy protections are important.