Privacy SOS

Your dental X-rays may be national security or intelligence information

Working for an amazing organization like the ACLUm provides many perks, among them great health and dental benefits. I went to the dentist last week and was asked to fill out a bunch of forms. One of them was an acknowledgement of receipt of the dentist's privacy policy, which was attached. Since I'm a data dork, I read the privacy policy. On the top of the second page I found this paragraph, ominously titled "NATIONAL SECURITY:"

It reads: 

We may disclose to military authorities the health information of Armed Forces personnel under certain circumstances. We may disclose to authorized federal officials health information required for lawful intelligence, counterintelligence, and other national security activities. We may disclose to correctional institution [sic] or law enforcement official [sic] having lawful custody of protected health information of inmate or patient under certain circumstances.

Given that laws like the USA Patriot Act grant incredibly broad federal powers to subpoena our health information, you'd think that my dentist would have simply said that it would disclose information where required by law. In fact, the privacy policy says so on the preceding page.

Does this mean that my dentist will disclose information to so-called "national security" workers even when disclosure is not required by law? Scary.

UPDATE: It's now January 2013 and I just got back from the dentist. Since I didn't sign the privacy form last time, the receptionist asked me to do so today. I read through the form, noted that the same "national security" clause appears, and respectfully declined to sign once more. Then I noticed that at the bottom of the page there is a copyright mark for the American Dental Association, dated 2002. The next time you go to the dentist, ask to see the privacy waiver. Check to see if, like my dentist, yours uses this ADA form. And if you aren't comfortable with this provision, don't sign it.

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