COVID19 accelerates dispersion of private health data


Here is something unsuprising, but NEVER repeated enough.

COVID19 accelerates dispersion of private health data /img/health-data-ownership.jpg

Stefania Maurizi, an italian journalist, just tweeted her own encounter with one of the many problems that are intensified by the current pandemic but, for the same reason, remain largely under the radar.

Since that problem is very general, and surely not limited to Italy, I am taking the liberty to give it more exposure, by translating and synthesizing what Maurizi just shared on Twitter, and some of the replies she got.

Private health data launched in the wild

Maurizi spent the last two days trying to defend her own health data from doctors that wanted to send her medical prescriptions or certificates (that is, private, very sensitive data) via uncrypted email and/or that cesspool (MY personal opinion!) that is WhatsApp.

It is extremely urgent, Maurizi says, that the italian Privacy Authority gives doctors extremely simple directions, to make absolutely clear that sending such data via email means “f__ing our medical data”, that is [in perspective] our public healthcare system. Especially when, at least here in Italy, there really is no need to do it:

Nobody demands that a doctor knows how to encrypt email, but it would be very easy to not send these very sensitive data in this way. All a doctor should do would be to send by plain email, instead of the whole prescription, only the corresponding alphanumeric code (NRE in Italian), that does not contain sensitive data, nor can be easily connected to them.

That would be enough, concludes Maurizi, to avoid both data leaks and queues, that is wastes of time, and above all unnecessary risks of contagion.

Maybe it doesn’t happen because it’s too simple…

First reactions and comments

(I may add other examples here in the next days…)

  • “Healthcare is the next frontier of data grabbing by Big Tech, after italian schools: the tender to provide e-learning platforms free of charge to italian schools expired yesterday” (for more by me about italian schools and universities even more colonized by foreign proprietary platforms thanks to the pandemic, see here and here. Also interesting, but only in Italian, is this post)
  • From Pavia, Lombardy: “tell me about it. In the Policlinico San Matteo public hospital we must register with a private platform to book visits”

Final (for now), unavoidable question:

What Maurizi rightly complains about is surely happening in many other forms, in many other places. The more the general public is aware of the long term implications of certain practices the better, and it can never happen soon enough. If you have similar stories to share from any country, or links to them, please let me know!

Image source: Pixabay

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