Incidental Exposure to Health Information May Lead to Substantial HIPAA Exposure for ISPs

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Whether telecommunications carriers or Internet service providers (ISPs) know it or not, they may be subject to the privacy, security, and breach notification requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) rules. HIPAA’s expansive reach may extend to ISPs that maintain individually identifiable health information on their systems. Penalties for violating the HIPAA rules can reach the millions of dollars, even for unknowing violations.

Thus, carriers and ISPs would be well served to:

- Evaluate the likelihood that they are maintaining health information on behalf of health care providers or health plans, such as through the provision of e-mail accounts, web hosting services, and other on-line offerings;

- Determine whether they are covered by HIPAA as business associates; and

- Consider creating a HIPAA compliance program to conform existing privacy and security safeguards to HIPAA.

Please see full advisory below for more information.

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