Health providers and technology companies are looking for ways to make money off your personal health data.

Should they be able to sell your data without your permission? Senate Bill 703 says no, and it has broad bipartisan support in the Legislature. The bill allows the commercial sale of personal health information but only with authorization of the individual.

The bill is a good step toward protecting privacy of personal data and ensuring Oregonians can profit from their personal health information being shared. When Oregonians visit the hospital or a doctor’s office now, their information may be monetized by the health provider. But Oregonians don’t get any direct financial benefit.

The proposed change in the law raises some concerns. What if this bill and other bills like it across the country make it more difficult to do medical research and share patient data? Researchers use the data to evaluate the effectiveness and side effects of various treatments and drugs. If consumers are able to sell their health data, it could increase the cost of medical research. That may be true, but if anyone is going to profit from the sale of the personal health information of Oregonians, shouldn’t each individual Oregonian be able to get a share and make that decision for themselves? Language in the bill also tries to minimize any additional costs for research.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has raised questions about the bill, too. The ACLU worries it is part a profit-making scheme for technology companies. It is. And people will be encouraged to share more of their personal health information than they do now. They may. Poorer Oregonians may also be more likely to sell their personal health data than richer Oregonians, creating a two-tiered system of privacy based on wealth.

There may be some truth in all those issues raised by the ACLU. But the bill would give consumers the choice to make an important privacy and health decision themselves. Poor people are just as capable of making privacy decisions as rich people, and this bill may be a way for some to be a little less poor.

Consumers should have control over who has their blood pressure, lists of their prescriptions and the results of colonoscopy tests. Medical providers and technology companies shouldn’t be the only ones profiting. SB 703 gives consumers control and a way to benefit financially. Pass it.

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