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Posts by Jane Yakowitz


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Those in the habit of looking for privacy invasions can find them everywhere. This phenomenon is on display in the recent news coverage of Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., a case currently under review by the Supreme Court. The litigation challenges a Vermont law that would limit the dissemination and use of prescription drug data for the purposes of marketing to physicians by pharmaceutical companies. The prescription data at issue identify the prescribing physician and pharmacy, but provide only limited detail about the patients (for example, the patient�s age in years and gender). Nevertheless, privacy organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) have filed amici curiae briefs sounding distress alarms for patient privacy. A recent New York Times article describes the case as one that puts the privacy interests of “little people” against the formidable powers of “Big Data.” The fear is that, in the information age, data subjects could be re-identified using the vast amount of auxiliary information available about each of us in commercial databases and on the internet.

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