Washington State Passes Health Privacy Law

Washington state lawmakers on Monday passed a broad privacy bill that, if enacted, will limit the collection and transfer of a broad range of information related to consumers' health.

The My Health My Data Act, backed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, prohibits app developers, website operators and others from collecting or sharing a broad range of health data without consumers' opt-in consent.

The bill also outlaws geo-fencing within 2,000 feet health-care facilities.

Specifically, the measure prohibits the use of GPS near health-care centers, if the purpose is to identify people seeking health care, collect health data from consumers, or send notifications or ads relating to health.

The bill's definition of health care includes health conditions, prescription medication, genetic data and biometric data such as fingerprints, vein patterns, faceprints, voice recordings, keystroke patterns and gait patterns.

The measure also allows individuals to bring lawsuits over violations. If signed by Governor Jay Inslee, the law will take effect March 31, 2024.

The proposed law comes less than one year after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, paving the way for states to prosecute abortion seekers.

The ACLU of Washington cheered news of bill's passage. “This bill is critical to protecting those seeking and providing abortion & gender-affirming health care,” the civil rights organization said Monday on Twitter.

Earlier this year, the major advertising groups urged state legislators to revise the measure, arguing that it could have “far-reaching, unintended, and unfavorable consequences.”

Among other objections, the organizations opposed the provision allowing consumers to sue over violations.

Allowing private lawsuits “would flood Washington’s courts with frivolous lawsuits driven by opportunistic trial lawyers searching for technical violations, rather than focusing on actual consumer harm,” the Association of National Advertisers, American Association of Advertising Agencies, Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation and Digital Advertising Alliance said in a letter sent to state lawmakers last month.

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