After waiting for nearly a month, officials at the National Institutes of Health alerted some 2,500 people that their names, addresses and detailed personal health information gathered from heart scans in a clinical trial were purloined when an unknown person stole a government laptop with the data on it. NIH officials told the Washington Post that they had hesitated to contact the people, worried that they may be unduly alarmed by the news. But the report notes that the same kind of delay helped raise a hue and cry at the Veterans Administration after one of its laptops loaded with the personal data of U.S. servicemen was stolen. In the case of the NIH laptop, none of the data had been encrypted, as required.
"The shocking part here is we now have personally identifiable information--name and age--linked to clinical data," Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy & Technology, told the Post. "If somebody does not want to share the fact that they're in a clinical trial or the fact they've got a heart disease, this is very, very serious. The risk of identity theft and of revealing highly personal information about your health are closely linked here."
- check out the article from the Washington Post
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