Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 30, 2013

Online records may not be that private

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday accused a small Atlanta-based medical lab that specializes in cancer detection of not doing enough to protect its patients’ online records, resulting in the leak of Social Security numbers and birth dates of more than 9,000 consumers.

The complaint against LabMD describes what many consumers fear: being forced to hand over personal information to a doctor’s office or hospital, not knowing how that data is handled or who has access to it, only to become vulnerable to identity theft. The allegations also raise questions about the federal government’s push for the health care industry to swap paper for electronic records to save money when doing so relies on cybersecurity investments by private companies.

In a statement, LabMD said the company “looks forward to vigorously fighting against the FTC’s overreach by seeking recourse through the available legal processes.”

Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, said LabMD’s practices put consumers at serious risk of identity theft.

“The FTC is committed to ensuring that firms who collect that data use reasonable and appropriate security measures to prevent it from falling into the hands of identity thieves and other unauthorized users,” she said in a statement.