Mining for Gold in the Silver Market

Data miners are mining for gold among silver (and blue) haired retirees. Is your private information really private? How do you protect your personal information from being mined for gold and sold to marketers? Is HIPPA truly effective in protecting your information?

According to an ABC News report, your private medical information is not so private.

Mining for data gold

Identity theft gets all the press, but the focus is on credit thieves. There is an even bigger market in your PHI (personal health information).

Medicare fraud takes center stage for medical identity theft but there is gold in your diagnosis. Some thieves simply want your Medicare data mining for goldnumber to facilitate fraudulent claims. Others want to sell you diabetic supplies, durable medical equipment and even adult diapers.

Dan Abate doesn’t have diabetes nor is he aware of any obvious link to the disease. Try telling that to data miners.

The 42-year-old information technology worker’s name recently showed up in a database of millions of people with “diabetes interest” sold by Axciom


Your medical condition is gold for data miners. But what about Dan Abate? He doesn’t have diabetes. So where did these modern day prospectors get his name?

Possibly from a list of charitable donors that made contributions for diabetes research.

Where does your information go?

ABC News “found somebody willing to sell a data dump of diabetic patients with information including their names, birth dates and who their insurance provider was, among other details. Another seller offered 100,000 records of customers who purchased health insurance in the last three to 12 months.”

Some of this data is selling for as little as $0.15 per name. Miners have access to your name, date of birth, address, phone number and more.

Who is looking in your medicine cabinet?

Forget the NSA. They are supposedly looking for national security threats.

Data miners have been quietly using their tools to peek into America’s medicine cabinets. Tapping social media, health-related phone apps and medical websites, data aggregators are scooping up bits and pieces of tens of millions of Americans’ medical histories. Even a purchase at the pharmacy can land a shopper on a health list.

(Consumers are) showing up in directories with names like “Suffering Seniors” or “Aching and Ailing,” according to a Bloomberg review of this little-known corner of the data mining industry. Other lists are categorized by diagnosis, including groupings of 2.3 million cancer patients, 14 million depression sufferers and 600,000 homes where a child or other member of the household has autism or attention deficit disorder.

Your information is probably out there already. If you are getting unsolicited calls, email or junk mail for medical items you may (or may not) want or need, chances are you have landed on some thieves list.

What about my HIPPA rights?

The truth is, you have no HIPPA rights.

HIPPA is a “feel good” law that imposes fines and even jail time for those that do not take precautions to keep your private information private. Once your information is stored electronically “in the cloud” or transmitted to another facility data miners have the ability to mine for gold.

nighthawk servicesHIPPA laws do not apply when your data leaves the United States. Insurance carriers routinely provide access to customer service reps in other countries. Medical facilities use overseas  diagnosticians for reading X-rays and digital images.

I blogged on Nighthawk Radiology Services at InsureBlog back in 2006. The linked post addresses your loss of HIPPA rights once your data leaves the United States.

HIPPA laws do not prevent data mining any more the drunk driving laws eliminate driving while intoxicated. But they do provide civil and criminal penalties for malicious disobedience.


How do I protect my private information?

Believe it or not, most consumers willingly give up their data without thinking about it.

When you go online looking for information about a medical condition, medication or even insurance quotes you run the risk of voluntarily handing your information over to data miners looking for gold.

Most insurance quoting sites take the information you volunteer and sell that data to insurance agents and marketers.

Georgia Medicare Plans and GA Medigap Quotes NEVER sells your data. We provide you with an online quote that allows you to view rates and benefits on as many Medigap plans as you wish. Your name, DOB and other information is stored in a secure site that can only be accessed by Bob Vineyard.

When you get a secure quote from us here is what will happen.

  • You will receive an email, thanking you for visiting our site.
  • Shortly after that I will send you an email with rates on our most popular plan based on your age and zip code
  • I will call you a few days later to answer any questions

You will receive additional emails from time to time providing you with general information about Medicare. You will also receive periodic emails on retiree related topics.

You may opt out of future emails at any time and your data is NEVER SOLD.



Do other marketing firms sell my data?

They can sell your information to gold miners but they can only do it legally if you give them permission. This disclosure is usually in the fine print at the bottom of an opt in page that most people never bother to read.

AARP is the largest senior focused marketing firm in the country. Do they use your private information?

You bet they do.

And how they collect and use your information is spelled out in their 12 point privacy notice.

Selling your information to travel agencies and insurance companies is how they keep the lights on at AARP.

Data mining is gold for marketers. Keep that in mind the next time you go online or fill out a request for information card and mail it back in.


#datamining #HIPPA #personalhealthinformation