Cyber Secure Institute Calls Wired Magazine's "2009 Smart List" Idea "Forget Medical Privacy" Profoundly Stupid

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, the Cyber Secure Institute called Wired Magazine's idea that we should "forget medical privacy" profoundly stupid. This idea was part of the Magazine's 2009 list of "Smart Ideas," which is the cover story of Wired's October 2009 edition.

As part of the magazine's annual list of "smart ideas," Wired endorsed an idea promoted by Jamie Heywood that people should forget about medical privacy. The article quotes Mr. Heywood as saying, "Privacy has been an excuse by those with vested interests in hoarding information." Wired and Heywood call for people to "create public profiles listing their symptoms, medications, and other details long deemed too sensitive to share." Heywood believes that our personal healthcare data should be as easily accessible as "ordering a pizza."

"Wired concedes that the ideas in the 2009 Smart Ideas list are ‘dangerous,'" Rob Housman, Executive Director of the Institute said. "Wired is right, the idea that we should forget our medical privacy is extremely dangerous. However, it isn't just dangerous, it is also inane, stupid, irresponsible, irrational, and nonsensical... I could go on," He added.

"Heywood and Wired admit ‘that there may be pitfalls-the prospect, for example, that employers could weed out workers with rare diseases...'" Housman said. "However, they suggest that the number of people who would suffer as a result of these 'pitfalls' will be small, ‘...a couple of lost jobs.' This is nonsense," he said.

"If all our personal medical data was made public as Wired and Heywood argue the impacts on Americans would be far reaching," Housman said. "Untold thousands of people would suffer, not just people with rare diseases. Everyone whose data indicates anything that an employer may frown upon would be at risk. People would lose jobs, others would be unable to get work, or passed over for promotions, or demoted," Housman said. "How many companies would pass over a well qualified woman if they knew she was seeing a physician in order to get pregnant? How many employers might find a reason to fire someone with heart disease or diabetes or any other condition that could impact performance, absenteeism or healthcare costs?"

"Moreover, of all magazines, Wired should know better than to suggest that there are ways that openly disclosed data can somehow be made anonymous," Housman added. "Not a day goes by without some form of serious personal data breach. Even protected medical data is routinely compromised. Moreover, there are now websites and other technologies that compile, sort and aggregate data sources to present detailed, highly intrusive composite profiles of people. Wired's idea would mean that these sites would now be able to tell you not just what books you've been surfing but what diseases you have," Housman continued. "To think that you can somehow protect open data by ‘anonymiz[ing]' it is ridiculous-we can't even fully protect classified systems in the Pentagon. Wired should know better," Housman said.

"We appreciate Wired's desire to shake things up a bit. However, Wired might have been better served by sticking to ideas that, while they may be provocative, might have a shred of commonsense behind them. The notion that we should just forget our medical privacy is utterly senseless," Housman said.

"We'd suggest Wired consider putting forcing the adoption of inherently secure IT systems on next year's Smart List, that is a provocative, necessary idea whose time has come," Housman said.

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