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Should Medical Professionals Examine Their Patients' Online Lives?


March 24, 2010

In an essay for the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, three doctors explore the potential benefits and the privacy pitfalls of a practice they call "patient-targeted Googling." The Wall Street Journal reports that authors David Brendel, Benjamin Silverman and Brian Clinton not only point out how such a practice can be beneficial, such as in emergency cases where patients are unconscious, but also caution that some are motivated by "curiosity, voyeurism and habit." In their paper, the three doctors have outlined a framework to help medical professionals decide whether to conduct such searches. Brendel points out that while some say "absolutely it should never be done; it's a breach of privacy," others suggest the data "is in the public domain, and it may be information that is clinically relevant." (Registration may be required to access this story.) (See related story on "The ethics of 'Googling' someone" from the December 2009  issue of the IAPP member newsletter, the Privacy Advisor.)
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