Personal data security –beyond health care

The legislature in Utah is considering a bill to notify Medicaid beneficiaries that their personal information will be stored by the state. That’s not an unreasonable move, but I expect the practical impact to be low. Is someone going to decline participation in a public health care plan just because their data is collected?

It will be useful, though, if debate on the bill sparks a broader discussion of what data is stored by the state and even by private organizations. It’s probably too much to ask in 2013 that we move toward restrictions on what’s collected, but perhaps in a few more years the time will be right.

Think about what kind of information is out there and how it might be combined:

  • Medical records
  • Bank account and credit card transactions
  • Automated toll transponder data
  • Car location from license plate readers
  • Whereabouts tracking data through cell phone location based services
  • Google searches
  • Mail services
  • Social networking
  • Customs and border protection information on crossings

Can we ever put the genie back in the bottle? If anything data collection will become more extensive over the next few years as facial recognition technology improves and deployment increases.

It’s reasonable to be concerned about the security of medical records, but the situation is a lot more ominous when taking into account the whole portfolio of information that’s out there.

February 8, 2013

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