Newspaper Sought Summary But Got List Of Medical Users
The state Department of Public Safety has sent a letter of apology to all medical marijuana patients in regarding the release of their names to the Tribune-Herald.
The accidental release generated a flurry of calls to both the newspaper and DPS officials by concerned patients, following a June 27 news article on medical marijuana.
The article contained this sentence: "Of those 4,200 people ( with marijuana licenses ), 2,640 of them live on the Big Island, according to a database that the Department of Public Safety provided to the Tribune-Herald on Thursday that lists the name of each patient, the location of their marijuana plants, license information and the names of their physicians."
The article did not name any of the patients, but many of them called the Tribune-Herald to ask if the above statement was true.
Public Safety Director Clayton Frank addressed the concerns in the July 7 letter to all 4,200 patients statewide:
"On June 24, 2008, medical marijuana registration information ... was mistakenly forwarded by e-mail to a news reporter by one of our department employees. The employee believed he was sending a different document," the letter states. "The information sent included the names and addresses of medical marijuana prescription holders, the names of the prescribing doctors and the medical marijuana certificate numbers issued to each prescription holder. Your name and corresponding information was included in this list," the letter states.
At the request of DPS, the Tribune-Herald has tracked down all electronic copies of this database and purged it from its system. No hard copies were made and it was never leaked to any outside party.
Frank's letter continues:
"Steps are also being taken internally within my department so that this does not happen again. Our information technology personnel have isolated the medical marijuana registry so that it cannot be mistakenly forwarded in the future. Further protocol is also being activated, putting additional internal controls into place.
"The end result of this incident is that we have confirmed as much as possible that none of the disseminated information remains in anyone's control other than at this department. We write to inform you of this confidentiality breach, however, because of the sensitive nature of the information and so that you can take any precautions you deem appropriate to protect yourself against possible misuse of this information. Neither social security ( sic ) numbers nor dates of birth were included in the information shared," Frank wrote.
Jim Propotnick, the DPS deputy director for law enforcement, said that such a release of information would not recur.
"We've taken the necessary steps to make sure that can't happen again," he said.
Asked about any repercussions for the employee who released the data, Propotnick said that "it's under investigation as to exactly what happened."
The Tribune-Herald had e-mailed DPS, asking for the number of medical marijuana patients in Hawaii, broken down by island or county. A DPS employee responded, but sent the detailed list of patients rather than a summary.
The DPS Web site has a list of frequently asked questions for patients, including the question of whether a patient's confidentiality is protected.
"Yes," it says. "However, upon an inquiry by a law enforcement agency, the Department of Public Safety will verify whether a particular qualifying patient has registered with the Department and may provide reasonable access to the registry information for official law enforcement purposes."
Pubdate: Fri, 11 Jul 2008
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald (Hilo, HI)
Copyright: 2008 Hawaii Tribune Herald
Author: Peter Sur
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)