Opinion Columns & Blogs

Theresa Payton: Take steps to protect data

As the federal government prepares to implement the Affordable Care Act, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, recently wrote a joint letter with 12 fellow attorneys general asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius important questions about data privacy. These are questions I urge Kansans to ask on their own, too.

In order to find out if you are eligible for ACA, the federal government needs to ask: How old are you? Where were you born? Are you a legal resident? Have you served in the military?

Where will officials go to get this information? The Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs, respectively. Then they will combine all of this data into the “hub,” a one-stop destination where all your data will be compiled as your profile.

Reports are not clear if the hub is going to be a database or an interface. Regardless, it will contain all your biographical information extracted from seven federal agencies, and state agencies, and put into one place.

It is a hacker’s dream: one-stop shopping for all of the details of your personal life.

Who will be reviewing this data? “Navigators,” as they are referred to in the new legislation. They are employees hired to determine your eligibility by peeking at the most private and sensitive details of your life.

Schmidt asks in the joint letter: How will Navigators be trained? What is the plan to reduce the risk of identity theft? How will the staff be screened to ensure we have highly skilled people with the utmost integrity looking at our private lives? The attorneys general raise valid concerns that need to be addressed.

As a consumer, this is your wake-up call. Take steps now to protect your data. Be vigilant about what you post on social media. Identity thieves can follow the information you post like digital bread crumbs leading back to your house. Contact your local legislator and say you aren’t comfortable with a database or interface that creates a one-stop shop for hackers.

Use one e-mail address only for your health insurance company. Ask your doctor what happens with your data – not your medical history but your address, phone number, etc. Be on guard.

The unprecedented changes being made to the collection of data may have only one, possibly two, lines of impenetrable defense: an attorney general asking the right questions and a vigilant consumer.