DefendYourPrivacy again

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Fri Apr 06 2001 - 11:20:41 MDT

The government is being naughty again. Time to revisit

I haven't seen this on Extropians yet, so...


What if an acquaintance who worked for an insurance company or government agency could read the private notes of your psychotherapist, or find out if you or a family member have ever undergone drug or alcohol treatment?

Would you want others to know whether you've ever had an abortion or been treated for an embarrassing disease?

All of those things could happen if a regulation being considered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services goes into effect.

I'm participating in an Internet campaign to kill this regulation, and I'm inviting you to join me.

If we generate enough e-mail, we can bury this awful regulation. But we need to hurry -- because the it's scheduled to go into effect April 14, which is just two weeks away.

Please read this short background news item, and forward this message to any friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, or other people you know who may be interested. Then go to and sign the petition. It will be submitted directly to your representative in the U.S. House and to both your U.S. Senators.


By April 14, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson must decide whether to implement the "medical privacy" rules submitted in the waning days of the Clinton administration. The rules, published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2000, mandate that every doctor and health care provider turn patient records over to the HHS and other federal agencies for "safekeeping" -- regardless of whether patients consent.

The government could then share those records with third parties such as insurance companies, private marketers, and even police agencies.

The result? Soon millions of government bureaucrats, clerks in insurance companies, HMO's and even drug marketing companies will have access to your confidential medical records without your permission. Specifically, this regulation would:

* Allow the disclosure, without patient consent, of all medical records for "public health surveillance activities" and dozens of other purposes. Providers could refuse to treat people who refuse to surrender their records.

* Allow private insurance companies to access the medical information and compile it into a database.

* Permit police agencies to access medical records without a search warrant.

* Give the government the right to access the private notes of a psychotherapist.

* Allow foreign government officials to see Americans' health records, as long as the U.S. government claims it is doing it for a "national health purpose."

* Assign every American a "unique patient identifier," whether you want one or not, by working in conjunction with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The number would be similar to a Social Security number for medical transactions - and would make accessing an individual's medical records as easy as running a credit check.

* Give direct marketers access to medical records, and allow pharmacies to share prescription records "for the purpose of marketing health-related products and services" -- all without patient consent.

* Prevent patients involved in health research projects from accessing their own medical records.

The government claims it is doing this to "protect" the privacy of your medical records. But if these regulations go into effect, you can kiss your medical privacy goodbye.

In a free society, the government has no reason to have copies of your private medical records, and politicians have no right to release your medical records to others without your consent.

But that's exactly what's going to happen, unless we can generate enough opposition to persuade Congress to stop these regulations from going into effect April 14th.

Please forward this e-mail to any friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, or other people you know personally who may be interested. However, please don't send it indiscriminately; spam will only hurt our campaign.

Then go to our web page ( and sign the petition. Thank you.

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