For more than 50 years, a little known American firm has collected and spread intimate details about the private lives of American citizens.
It is not the CIA nor the FBI but a similar organization in private industry called the Medical Information Bureau (MIB).
The MIB gathers data from insurance companies on individuals — their blood pressure, mental problems, and drinking excesses — and then makes the information available to more than 750 insurance companies in the United States and Canada.
The MIB now has files on 15 million Americans and adds about 400,000 new names a year. The only means of verifying information it receives is one employee who spot-checks reports. And the MIB insists that the information contained in its files should not be made available to the public.
The Privacy Protection Study Commission, a federal agency established to monitor abuses of privacy, has concluded:
1 — Consumers lack adequate knowledge of how their personal medical records will be used.
2 — Some insurance companies base adverse decisions solely on MIB information.
3 — Applicants cannot require that this information not be used by the MIB. Even examining physicians themselves are not told that the medical information they compile will be disseminated to 750 insurance companies.
The failure of the mass media to inform the public of this large-scale, ongoing invasion of privacy qualifies this story for nomination as one of the “best censored” stories of 1978.
Mother Jones, June, 1978, “A Case of Medical Espionage?”, by Matt Van Norden.