In a case that will have profound implications, the European Court of Human Rights has issued a judgment against Finland in a medical privacy case.
The complainant was a nurse at a Finnish hospital, and also HIV-positive. Word of her condition spread among colleagues, and her contract was not renewed. The hospital’s access controls were not sufficient to prevent colleages accessing her record, and its audit trail was not sufficient to determine who had compromised her privacy. The court’s view was that health care staff who are not involved in the care of a patient must be unable to access that patient’s electronic medical record: “What is required in this connection is practical and effective protection to exclude any possibility of unauthorised access occurring in the first place.” (Press coverage here.)
A “practical and effective” protection test in European law will bind engineering, law and policy much more tightly together. And it will have wide consequences. Privacy compaigners, for example, can now argue strongly that the NHS Care Records service is illegal. And what will be the further consequences for the Transformational Government initiative – the “Database State”?