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Digital Medical Privacy Beyond the Obamacare Circus

Garth Bruen, Friday, December 20, 2013

The two biggest stories continuously occupying the news and our minds are allegations of mass surveillance and the problematic implementation of Obamacare. These two concerns are actually speeding trains headed for a collision course. Whether or not the current national health care reform succeeds we can be sure that government will be more involved in our records and there are good reasons to be concerned that personal and private information could be exposed

It is an understatement to say the Obamacare rollout has been bumpy, there are a maze of problems. One of the key problems with the project is that is focused on a website. Websites can be problematic even on the best of days and under the most careful conditions. When the point of entry fails, the success of anything else becomes irrelevant. It is not just the federal government site having problems, state exchanges are having web problems too even though some states are models for success. Amid this confusion and political maneuvering scammers are lining up to create fake websites to lure Americans into giving not only their financial information but their medical history as well. In 2012 ABC News demonstrated how massive medical data dumps were easily found with search engines, some were for sale. Phishing has been all too successful with banking; medical data is the new frontier. And then, not all of the collectors will be “fake,” which would not be first time industry insiders have taken advantage of consumers – mortgage scams are perpetrated by those directly involved in the business. The Obamacare navigator system has presented opportunities for fraud in its lack of verification. Why not? Health care involves one of the largest money transfer flows in the history of civilization. With the potential expansion of bureaucratic layers, there is more and more room for multiple third parties to insert themselves in that money flow and divert some of it away. But much worse, you medical privacy is at stake.

 If you were worried about your privacy before, that will seem like the “good old days” compared to the future. If you are annoyed by spam emails trying to sell you random junk products, just wait until you start receiving phone calls during dinner from people with intimate knowledge of your medical problems. Diabetic? Get ready for an onslaught of advertisements for drug and related products inundating your home mailbox. High blood pressure? Strangers will suddenly know and ask you to buy something. Taking psychiatric drugs? Birth control? Herpes medication? Heart disease treatment?

 A grocery store tracking your purchase habits pales in comparison to this nightmare. In the center is the government’s abysmal track record of data security. This is not some problem unique to our government; it is the nature of the beast. This is about too much information in one place and too many hands on the access. Consider the unique problem of this type of data, once it is out there it is.

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