Monster, Marshalls, Others Prove No Privacy

Your no-brainer quiz for today:  What do Monster.com, Visa, Marshalls and TJMax, Oklahoma Law Enforcement, Spotsylvania County, PA, and at least 500 other entities have in common?

They have lost electronic information to hackers, scammers and phishers in the past three years.

And there’s a good chance some of YOUR personal information was among the records they lost.

Think about it:  your credit card numbers, your social security number, your bank account information….  somebody else has it now because these entities couldn’t keep track of it.

So why do I write about this today?

News in many newspapers and across the internet tells about the latest big loss — Monster.com which acknowledged losses earlier this month.  Read about it in Forbes.

And it brings to mind an email conversation with my new internet privacy guru, Bob Hedin, who warns in a very pointed way that there is no such thing as secure information. Period.

And how is this important to patients? 

Because every large internet entity out there is trying to get YOU to manage your health at its website.  They want you to keep EMRs, Electronic Medical Records.  The idea is that you and your doctor (eventually) will be able to keep your health records online.  Everything from your family history, to your doctor visits, medical test results, x-rays and CT scans, shot records, the drugs you take — everything.  How convenient it will be to have access to them from anywhere in the world!

Even the New York Times weighs in.

Sounds great, right?  Easy access?

Not so fast!  There are HUGE privacy and security problems here… because despite anything they may claim about keeping your information private, it just plain cannot be done.  Period.

Who are these large internet players?  Here’s a starting list.  It will grow, I’m sure:

  • MSN
  • Google
  • WebMD
  • Revolution Health
  • …. to name a few.

Why do you think they are interested?  Out of the kindness of their hearts?  Not a chance.  When you realize that in order to provide this service to you it will cost them out of their pockets for the storage space and administration….  they aren’t going to provide it for free.  Nor do they want to.

Nope.  Instead, they will use it for advertising!  So when you pull up your records, and recorded there is the fact that you have arthritis, which ads will you see in your “free’ medical record?  Drugs for arthritis, of course!  And how do THEY know you have arthritis?  Yes.  Because their ‘bots have “read” your records.  And if their ‘bots can do it, so can anyone else.

And who’s to say they won’t sell your information, too?  Pharmacies do it — every day they sell lists of the people who buy their drugs to the manufacturers and others who want the information.  So why shouldn’t internet companies do the same?

Honestly.  Some people just won’t care how private their records are.  Well, that is, until they get turned down for something important to them — like a new job, or life insurance, or even health insurance — eventually a home loan because they were diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, or even a car loan because they were treated after someone else hit THEM last year. And the only way to get much of that info is to gain access to health records that have been kept online. 

Sounds kind of Big Brotherish, doesn’t it?  Not to mention a motherlode for MSN, Google, and the others?

Now — I’ve blogged before about the importance of keeping one’s records.  And I even think there is a great halfway point.  Keep track of your own records electronically on a travel drive (thumb drive, jump drive — one of the little ones you can attach to your keychain.)  Then, at least, you can keep them with you wherever — and even if you lose it, it will be backed up on your hard drive on your computer at home (which, of course, you have security software installed).  And if someone finds the travel drive, what will they do with it anyway? 

OK.  It’s not a perfect system — but it’s better than putting all your information out there with one of the internet giants to be sold to the highest bidder.

Want to read more?  Here are a few previous posts:

Pay Cash for your Healthcare

Medical Family History: Get it Down Before They’re Gone

Steve Case’s Revolution Raises Privacy Questions

And as for Monster.com?  I’d be sweating bullets right now if my boss didn’t know I had my resume online, looking for a new job. 

Hate it when those security breaches happen.

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2 Responses to “Monster, Marshalls, Others Prove No Privacy”


  1. 1 Melissa August 30, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Modern Healthcare magazine has named Deborah Peel, MD, founder and chairman of Patient Privacy Rights, as #4 of the 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare. You know why? Deborah has stated the facts clearly for all who will listen: “The reality is that health records of every American are being sold every day. Patients shouldn’t have to fear that their records will be compromised so someone else can profit.” GOT TO THIS SITE AND GET INVOLVED!!!!!!!!!


  1. 1 Microsoft offers PHRs - Don’t Do It! « Every Patient’s Advocate Trackback on October 5, 2007 at 6:14 am
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