Med Sites Need a Dose of Privacy
Wired News (12/07/00) Vol. 35, No. 3 p.C1; Tapellini, Donna

A recent survey from Cyber Dialogue finds that 54 percent of the online population uses the Internet for health care, while another survey conducted by Cyber Dialogue and Deloitte Research finds that 55 percent of physicians use the Internet, but only 24 percent use it for professional reasons. Government officials and patients have begun pushing for more privacy for consumers of online health care. New rules created by the Department of Health and Human Services will not go into effect for at least another two years. FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle, speaking at the recent eHealthcareWorld conference, said that protecting privacy is the No. 1 topic on Capitol Hill, but he noted that people continue to willingly share their personal data, despite their own concerns about privacy. Swindle said he is reluctant to regulate the online health care industry, and he urged the industry to set up standards for itself and leave the government out of the process. Nonetheless, Swindle warned that "we are on the path to a more regulatory environment." Attorney Reece Hirsch said that privacy policies must mirror a company's actual privacy practices. Privacy policies must also take into consideration the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and must include information on notice and use, Hirsch said. The Health Care Financing Administration's Internet Security Policy is a working model of what privacy protections should be available: 128-bit encryption, user authentication, and an effective password/key-management system.

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