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Media Statement: Commissioner clarifies media inaccuracies that doctors are selling patient information to drug companies
26 May 2005"Recent media reports about the Office's investigations into information flows between doctors and the Health Communications Network Limited (HCN) and CAMM Pacific are inaccurate and may have led to confusion among consumers," said Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis.
"It is important that people know that I have not approved any deal between HCN and CAMM," said Ms Curtis.
"Allegations were raised last year that those companies and some doctors could be breaching the Privacy Act and I chose to investigate. My Office's role was to investigate the information flows between doctors, HCN and CAMM and to apply the Privacy Act to those activities.
"The Privacy Act applies to information where the identity of the individual is apparent, or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information. The Office is bound to make its decision about matters it investigates on the basis of the meaning of personal information as set out in the Privacy Act.
"Following my Office's investigation it was found that the identity of patients could not reasonably be ascertained. Therefore, the Privacy Act does not apply in the circumstances of this particular case.
"There has been no change in the Office's thinking on what constitutes personal information.
"I have addressed the wider issues of the use of medical information for research purposes and the appropriateness of the definition of personal information in the Privacy Act, in my recent report on the Review of the Private Sector Provisions (released on 18 May 2005).
"I have recommended that those issues should be subject to further discussion and debate to ensure that our privacy laws best serve the needs of all Australians. The Government will be responding to my recommendations," said Ms Curtis.