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home / healthcare / press releases

May 11, 2005

CONTACT: Jerry Flanagan, (310) 392-0522 ext. 319

Hillary Clinton & Gingrich Support Legislation That Could Increase Medical Privacy Risks

Santa Monica, CA -- Senator Hillary Clinton joined former House Speaker Newt Gingrich today in support of medical information technology legislation that could lead to increased risk of invasions of privacy and possibly identity theft if appropriate protections are not provided, according to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).

The legislation, introduced today by Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Tim Murphy (R-PA), will create huge databases containing a patient's medical information including illnesses and genetic predispositions, alcohol and drug addiction, the medications the patient receives, and most likely, personal identifier information like Social Security Numbers. The bill requires health information networks funded through new technology grants to allow patients to "opt out" of including their information in medical databases but fails to hold database operators accountable when information is inappropriately accessed.

"While better medical technology can save lives and money, this legislation puts consumers at risk of invasions of privacy and possibly identity theft." said Jerry Flanagan of FTCR. "At a time when information brokers buy and sell our private information to the highest bidder, database managers must be held accountable when identity thieves take advantage of lax security precautions and make our private information public."

To dramatize the risk of privacy invasions and identity theft, in the Fall of 2003 the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights purchased on-line for $26 each the Social Security Numbers of top Bush Administration officials including then Attorney General John Ashcroft, then CIA Director George Tenet, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and FTC Commissioner Timothy Muris. Once an identity thief has obtained a consumer's Social Security Number, the identity thief may open credit accounts in the consumer's name or gain access to bank accounts.

"In light major security breaches at information warehousers like ChoicePoint, any legislation to expand the use of medical databases must have significant protections built-in so that patients are not forced to face new threats to their privacy," said Flanagan.

FTCR has held televised town hall events with patients and health professionals over the last three years throughout California. Increasing information technology in medicine while protecting a patient's privacy was a common theme in those discussions.

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a leading nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization.

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