Privacy Risks Get Real – California Privacy Laws, Octomom, and Kaiser Permanente

No organization wants to be the first  to be fined because of a new regulation. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where Kaiser Permanente finds itself.  After some high profile cases of unauthorized access to celebrities’ medical records, the California legislature adopted two new privacy laws (SB 541 and AB 211);  these regulations were so swiftly enacted that they contained spelling errors. Both regulations went into effect on January 1 of this year. Five months later, Kaiser Permanente has become the first enterprise to be fined under this new regime.

Regulators have levied the maximum fine, $250,000, for the recent incident involving Nadya “Octomom” Suleman.  (Kevin commented on this previously.)  All in all, 23 individuals looked at Ms. Suleman’s records without authorization. Of these, 15 have either been fired or resigned.  And although the state regulators have fined Kaiser, they have yet to penalize any of these 23 individuals – which they can do under state law.

As reported in the LA Times, Suleman’s lawyer said:

I think Kaiser handled it professionally. They found out, they terminated the employees, they brought it to our attention. They certainly didn’t try to hide it.

It’s important to note that even though Kaiser acted appropriately, laws like SB 541 are clear cut: unauthorized access to medical information =  fine. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200.

As we’ve said before privacy risks are real. The fines are increasing. The number of regulations is increasing. Now more than ever is the time to register for this year’s Catalyst conference so you can attend our Privacy Risks Get Real track and learn how to reduce the chance your organization will become the next “first.”

(Cross posted from Burton Group’s Identity blog.)