Service of Protecting Your Personal Data

February 6th, 2020

Categories: Data, DNA, Health Insurance, Healthcare

Fitness trackers Photo:

I’m suspicious of any and all data sharing about my health, my DNA–you name it. Today’s protections can be gone in a flick of a pen with a law change or the information exposed to all as a result of a data breach. Lemmings happily line up to learn about their ancestry and I’m dead-set against that, as I’ve written in this blog, as I’m sure that information won’t be used solely to determine that great grandma came from Minsk.

Thorin Klosowski’s New York Times article, “What to Consider Before Trading Your Health Data for Cash–Don’t trade away your health data without considering the potential issues first” cemented my feelings on the subject.


Some are tempted by discounts, gift cards or financial rewards by an employer, HMO, health care plan or insurance company–or they are pressured by an employer or their team–to enroll in a wellness program involving a phone or fitness tracker. The idea: a healthy lifestyle will lessen the cost of health care.

The tracking device must be covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] or you are unprotected.

Klosowski wrote: “If a program or wearable tracking device is covered by HIPAA, your employer will never have access to the data collected, but if HIPAA doesn’t apply, you’re trusting those entities to not share the data with your employer, third-party ad agencies, or anyone else. Without HIPAA, a wellness program (or, more accurately, the operator or administrator behind it) may sell the health information it collects, which could put you at risk of having your data used against you or unlawfully in some way.”

You are not protected if the device is only HIPPA compliant.

In addition “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also adds this distinction,” Klosowski wrote: “If a wellness program is offered as part of a group health plan, your information is protected by HIPAA rules; if the wellness program is offered directly by an employer, the information is not protected.”

In addition, warned Klosowski, you may be asked to answer survey questions you don’t want to, such as whether you plan on becoming pregnant in the next few years. You might now want your employer to know this. Also avoid programs that ask for genetic test results, he suggested.

You may be fine today and diagnosed with something dicey tomorrow that you’d prefer be kept under wraps. When Nora Ephron died her closest friends were shocked, some angry that she hadn’t shared that she had acute myeloid leukemia. She knew if the news was well known she wouldn’t be insured to work on big film productions. She was right.

With an administration that flirts with removing insurance protection for preexisting conditions or a promotion at work in the balance, it would seem that people should take extra care before enrolling in anything they might later regret. Would you be tempted to take money to wear a tracking device?



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8 Responses to “Service of Protecting Your Personal Data”

  1. ASK Said:

    Quite simply, no…!

  2. Thomas Stier Said:

    Tom wrote on Facebook: Great post, Jeanne. We are already being tracked in many ways so, one might say “why not?” Then there’s the thought of making informed decisions by at least considering the possible consequences. We all have a digital footprint. I assume many people will consider trying to limit it. On the other hand, it seems “the cat 🐈 is out of the bag.”

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It’s true that most everything about us is out there but my philosophy is why make it easier for the creeps? I know a wealthy couple who are crawling out from under a data breach at a hospital in Dutchess County that impacted their credit for years and may still. Some things you can’t help. But why feed the greedy data monster?

  4. Martha Takayama Said:

    I would categorically avoiid any such offers no matter what the supposed incentives, advantages or perks. Our privacy already is at best a myth.

  5. BC Said:

    Honestly, do we really have ANY privacy? Info leaks so easily from many sources.

  6. Lucrezia Said:

    A knowledgeable and well funded protest group could take this on, but don’t hold your breath. Now back to throwing those political demands for money in the trash!

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I doubt we do have any privacy nor have we for a long, long time. At the infancy of the Internet being used by the public an acquaintance asked my mother if ___-__-____ was my father’s social security number which, in fact, it was. Dad had died a few years before but the incident gave us the willies.

    That doesn’t mean we should make it easy.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I think all this data is in the interest of big business and until someone influential is burned nothing will be done and anyway, the toothpaste is already out of the tube I’m afraid.

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