Magazine article Workforce Management

Snooping into Health Records Often Unnoticed

Magazine article Workforce Management

Snooping into Health Records Often Unnoticed

Article excerpt


Snooping into celebrity health records by workers at UCLA Medical Center sheds light on a largely hidden ailment facing employers: their own people peeking at confidential data.

Don Harris, president of consulting firm HR Privacy Solutions, says that although UCLA has been in the spotlight in recent months, there are other recent examples in which an organization's workers improperly reviewed data, which can lead to identity theft or otherwise stain a company's reputation.

Known cases likely are exceeded by incidents where employees got away with accessing sensitive information, Harris says.

"Probably a lot more snooping goes on that doesn't set caught," Harris says.

Data breaches-when an organization's information is exposed in some way-have become a major issue for businesses. Much of the public attention around the incidents has focused on external computer hackers. But a tally of data breaches kept by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse advocacy group shows that since 2005, more than 20 reported breaches were linked to a "dishonest insider" or to deliberate wrongdoing by current or former employees or contractors.

There have been repeated data snooping incidents at UCLA Medical Center. In April, a former UCLA Medical Center employee was indicted for selling information from celebrities' medical files to a national media outlet.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, which announced the indictment, did not name the celebrities or the media outlet. But the Los Angeles Times reported that the National Enquirer was the outlet, and the former employee allegedly snooped into the medical records of Maria Shriver, the wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; actress Farrah Fawcett; and many others.

In April, a California Department of Public Health probe found that UCLA Medical Center workers improperly accessed a celebrity's medical records in 2005 and earlier this year. …

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