All that Information, and So Personal

Visiting the doctor’s office is a nightmare for the Data Privacy Professional. One glance at all that paper reaching as far as the eye can see and all containing so much PII, is enough to get me humming the tune from the Monk series:

It’s a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care
Well I do
Hey, who’s in charge here?
It’s a jungle out there

I’ve read all the news about eMedical, creating these great files. We all want our doctors operating (pardon the pun) on data driven decisions, but it’s scary too. Once in digital form, it is out there forever. Anyone heard of hackers, private databases being beyond court rules, low bid contractors doing the work, anything else we need to know?

But there is hope. Roxana Geambasu, a computer science graduate at the University of Washington in Seattle, is working on self-destructing data.  A simple form is email with a self-destructing life-span. It self destructs, forever.

It’s called Vanish. It encrypts the data and it can be anywhere, email, photos, Facebook, etc. Then it places the “keys” around the internet. As they disappear, the message begins to disintegrate.  It’s like Voltemore’s Horcruxes (Oh, go read Harry Potter, you’re going to need those references very soon!).  The beauty is that all copies, even copies of copies, rot away, no matter where they are, on the internet, behind firewalls, wherever.

So until Vanish or something like it and better protections are in place, we have a bad situation. Just think about if someone is exonerated of a crime, they have the right to not mention the crime to a perspective employer. But with the wonders of the web, the criminal record is out there for the prospective employer to find. He won’t hire you and you won’t know why. Employers use private data bases that are unaffected by the court ruling that the data must be expunged. So start thinking about pre-existing or expensive conditions and trying to keep them under wraps. Is anyone else worried about the medical records or is it just me?


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