ONLINE PRIVACY: Survey Reveals Concern Over Health Information Privacy
Government Action on the Horizon
If some members of Congress have anything to say about it, that point of intervention will come sooner than later. Sen. Robert Toricelli (D-N.J.) is gathering support for a "far-reaching" Internet privacy bill he plans to unveil later this year, TechnologyDaily/P.M. reports. A letter from Toricelli to his colleagues says that the measure would make companies responsible for protecting consumers' personal information and would require them to obtain consent before releasing that information to outside parties. Under the law, Web sites also would have to disclose explicitly how they will use "personally identifiable information" and notify visitors of online surveillance tools in place that track their Internet movements and collect personal information (Vaida, 1/26). Meanwhile, House Commerce Committee Chair Tom Bliley (R-Va.) is "stepping up his scrutiny of online drug sites." In a letter to President Clinton this week, he complained that executive action giving the FDA regulatory authority over online drugstores was premature and failed to incorporate recommendations by a commission established to study the issue (Gruenwald, TechnologyDaily/P.M., 1/26). According to the CHCF survey, 33% of online users believe the government should regulate health Web sites, while 30% are not sure who should oversee the industry. Twenty percent think the industry should remain self-regulated (CHCF release, 1/27). For more information on e-health or to read the report, go to http://ehealth.chcf.org.