Monday, August 11, 2008

A Pair of Privacy Issues

A pair of media outlets bring us two very private sets of details, but both invasions of privacy were self-inflicted.

The more salacious is today's Deadspin, and relates to a pair of athletes discovered modeling. That's nothing new, Gabbe Reese. The fact they were nude -- ah, that's new. One wonders what these Division I BCS conference athletes were thinking. That no one would notice?

The second relates to HIPPA, and the couple of very important exceptions to that reasonably draconian rule. The feds can rain down very significant fines on health care workers, and those who handle health care records. Group A that is totally immune -- the media. While it may seem an invasion of privacy, there is nothing that prevents them from printing health-related information. Group B -- the person who's health is being commented upon.

So, when The Sporting News texts directly to a BCS football athlete to confirm his torn ACL, and said athlete texts back confirmation -- nothing can be done.


Christopher Byrne said...

If the athlete responds directly with the information, there is no HIPAA or privacy violation. The athlete gave the information up.

The bigger issue is that the athlete should not have responded to the text message. This is an athlete education issue.

Bill Smith said...

Yes -- as I noted the athlete giving up the info is no violation. The athlete education issue isn't so much that they confirmed something by text that was medical, it was that they responded by text period. It's an interview, as certain as if it were an email, a phone call or a face-to-face.

The other education issue is the athletic community -- as in you can't go after the paper for having published it. That's no HIPPA violation. I know schools that have done this with mixed effect. One school succeeded in intimidating a media outlet that it was privileged information. Most have been laughed at by the media's lawyers.