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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In a recent edition of Reader’s Digest, there is a mail-in form asking readers to identify their kind of pain, and list the medication they are taking for it. You also must provide your name, address, age and gender. Phone and e-mail address are optional. You send it to Pfizer in a fold-over style mailer with minimum security, and it promptly goes into their database of consumer private information. For this data, they offer information about pain and Pfizer products for your ailments. There are two more boxes to check: one, asking you to agree to allow them to share this info around and outside the company; two, they want to call you and ask questions. My advice: if you have pain, call a doctor; don’t tell Pfizer or any other pharmaceutical company about it. As an example, Pfizer just reported the loss of personal information on 17,000—still not sure other data hasn’t been compromised—including name, address, and Social Security number, which was posted on the Internet. It isn’t clear, but the company thinks another less-than-bright employee took a laptop home, and the spouse may have tried to install file-sharing software, after which the private data was made available over a “peer-to-peer” network, according to The As best I can determine, P to P networks are simply multiple computers tied together, like a husband and wife at home, so I am not certain how the sensitive data ended up on the Internet, and Pfizer refuses to answer specific questions re. the incident. A few years back Privacy Rights clearinghouse filed a lawsuit against Albertsons/OSCO for collecting your prescription data and selling it to pharmaceutical companies. CVS did the same in 1998, resulting in a lawsuit again the outside data company, Elensys, and Eli Lilly “outed” 669 Prozac users through a broadcast e-mail listing all recipients in the “To” line. I believe most of us would agree that the last industry we want in the personal data business is the pharmaceutical companies.

1 comment:

esilverman said...

Hi Jack,

This story actually first appeared Pharmalot, and if you go to this link, you can read the letter Pfizer sent to its employees.

Ed S