FTC Issues Privacy Report Draft With Implications for Health IT

On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission released a draft privacy report calling for greater online consumer protections that touch on the health IT industry, Politico reports.

Report Details

The report includes suggestions for how FTC can be more involved in efforts to curb practices of some websites that might mishandle sensitive information, such as medical histories and financial records.

As part of the privacy efforts, the commission advocates for a "Do Not Track" list that would enable consumers to stop websites and services from tracking their online browsing tendencies. The registry would be similar to the "Do Not Call" list launched in 2003 that allowed consumers to opt out of telemarketing calls (Romm, Politico, 12/1).

David Vladeck, director of FTC's Consumer Protection Bureau, said self-regulation by those in the online marketing industry has not kept pace with technology (Bartz, Reuters, 12/1).

He added that enacting a Do Not Track registry would require congressional approval (Angwin, Wall Street Journal, 12/1).

FTC also seeks to require companies to implement privacy protections into their business practices, which would involve retaining consumer information only for as long as necessary to fulfill a specific business objective (Wyatt/Vega, New York Times, 12/1). For example, "the retention of location information about a consumer's visits to a doctor's office or hospital over time could reveal something about that consumer's health that would otherwise be private," the report states (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 12/1).

In addition, the report calls for companies to provide notices to consumers when their data might be used in ways "not commonly accepted" (Wall Street Journal, 12/1).

The draft report comes after four privacy advocacy groups filed a complaint with FTC last week alleging that some websites aim to collect users' data on medical conditions, preferred medications and treatment plans (iHealthBeat, 11/29).

Next Up

On Thursday, a House subcommittee is slated to discuss the Do Not Track recommendation.

Meanwhile, industry stakeholders can submit comments on the draft report through January. The commission plans to finalize the report next year (Politico, 12/1).

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