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Senate Privacy Bill Would Expand HIPAA, Restrict Health Apps

June 14, 2019, 6:41 PM

A bill that would place privacy restrictions on wearable devices, health applications, and DNA testing kits would set a new federal standard for biometric consent, its Senate sponsors said.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced the Protecting Personal Health Data Act June 14 to create protections for genetic, biometric, and personal health data. The measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), would create a national task force to evaluate cybersecurity risks and privacy concerns associated with consumer products that use personal health data. It also would allow consumers to access and delete personal health data that companies collect or use.

“New technologies have made it easier for people to monitor their own health, but health tracking apps and home DNA testing kits have also given companies access to personal, private data with limited oversight,” Klobuchar, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said in a statement.

Consumer Reports, which supports the bill, said the “current legal framework for privacy around health data is out of date and incomplete.”

The legislation follows calls from data protection groups to update federal law to cover new technology such as wearables. Companies collecting the data should be subject to the same stringent patient data access rules as hospitals, the groups say. Recent news reports have revealed that hackers can access wearables and wellness app data, which also can be shared with insurance companies or others.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. But the 1996 law doesn’t cover wearable health devices or health and wellness apps.

The House hasn’t yet introduced a companion bill , an aide for Klobuchar told Bloomberg Law.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com; Cathleen O'Connor Schoultz at cschoultz@bloomberglaw.com

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