Health: Serious Breach of Confidentiality Reported in Maine

The Story:

Confidential information about people receiving treatment for  mental health and addiction issues was posted online, on a website maintained by the government of the state of Maine, and kept there for more than three months.


The Bangor Daily News discovered, and the state Department of Health and Human Services admitted, that there were at least 20 documents on the website that included names and, in some cases, addresses, birth dates, and even phone numbers, or individuals receiving such very private services. The documents also included information about suicidal behavior and about the patients’ complaints about health services providers. The state has referred to this as an “electronic system error.”

The confidential information has been scrubbed from the site and the licensing agency is now working to inform the people concerned of the breach.

In Pill Form:

The state agency involved licenses the health care agencies overseen by the Maine DHHS. This information was on a site that allows the public to review licensing information. Such public review is an important issue of transparency itself, so this incident does show dramatically how important values of transparency on the one hand and privacy on the other can come into conflict.



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