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Bill restricts collection of health data

Use of consumer reproductive health data would be much more restricted under House Bill 1155, the proposed “My Health, My Data Act.”

The proposed law requires the consumer’s consent before sharing or collecting personal health data. This prohibits organizations from selling consumer health data not otherwise protected by law.

After an extended floor debate over 23 proposed amendments, the bill received a vote of 57-39 in the state House of Representatives and moved to the Senate.

In 2022, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his office is partnering with Rep. Vandana Slatter, D-Bellevue, and Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, to propose legislation to increase data privacy protections in the health data sector. Sponsored by Slatter, HB 1155 is part of a package of legislation designed in response to constitutional protections for reproductive healthcare and abortion rights.

“This law will give Washingtonians more control over how their health data is used,” Ferguson said in a press release. “This is a key part of protecting Washingtonians’ access to safe, private, and reproductive care—which is more urgent now than ever.”

Consumer health data includes personal information linked to a consumer’s past, present, or future physical health. The bill includes an exception for public or peer-reviewed research and exemptions for processing covered by existing health privacy laws.

The bill prevents health-tracking apps, search engines, and advertisers from collecting and sharing Washingtonian health data without the user’s consent.

“In Washington State, we expect our healthcare data to be protected, and that includes reproductive and gender-affirming care,” said Slatter. “That means combating predatory behaviors such as the sale of private reproductive healthcare data that leads to restrictions on healthcare in states like Texas. Protecting us from attacks on our most sensitive health data is long overdue. Websites and apps have the tools to protect our data. It's time they did that.”

Those against the bill said the language in the bill does not protect data privacy, and it will limit technology already in place in the digital world.

“This is a broad net that will scoop in company products and services that don’t really deal with anything around consumer health data. But in order to comply, we will have to spend time, money, and resources and make the products and services we use even more complex and entangled than they already are...on the other hand we’re using the government to expand that data, so that concerns me,” Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, said.

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