This entry is about a story I received on the Politech mailing list. The story is concerned that HIPAA, the new law intended to protect the privacy of personal health information. You probably know about it if you have been to the doctors or dentists office recently. They are now required to publish and make available to you a copy of their privacy practices, among other things. So most offices are handing you a sheet of paper full of legal-speak and require that you sign something indicating that you have received the materials. (To be fair the sheets I have read are not packed with jargon, and are easily understood if you take the time to read it carefully. YMMV) But anyway, aparently the press was distrought with this new law arguing that it would limit their ability to cover certain events, or to be effective reporters. The posting at politech was an excerpt of this article. Basically the report said there was a tragic porch collapse and it lamented the fact that reporters were unable to pump the hospital for any information regarding the victims of the collapse, therefore were unable to give as rich of a report as they had been able in the past.

If the result of this law is that random people claiming to be press are unable to get personal information about me from my dealings with medical establishments, I am all for it. I hadn't ever considered the fact that someone could walk into a hospital that I visited and expect someone to divulge any personal information about me. The argument made in the article is ridiculous , reporters should have no reasonable expectation that trusted medical personel would hand out information on their patients. As far as I am concerned if a reporter wants to use any of my personal information to sell newspaper advertising, they can come request it directly from me.

Certain other people felt the need to respond to the posting, and Declan will often aggregate responses and publish them to the list. (If I hadn't been so far behind reading Politech, I might have been counted among the respondents.) But some Privacy and informath consultant Robert Gellman also felt my outrage and responded in kind, with quite a bit more detail and precedent. The remainder of the follow-up including a response by the author of the article to some criticism can be found here.

Basically the response to Mr. Fitzgerald's article is, we do not feel your pain, and as a matter of fact are outraged to know that your profession has routinely requested and even received, and *gasp* even published personally identifiable information about the victim's of tragic accidents without their knowledge or concent. So bugger off, jerk.

AuthorKevin McAllister