Beyond the statutory text of the new Washington state My Health My Data Act, the Washington Attorney General has published Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and will update such FAQs periodically. Some of the FAQs provide insight into possible interpretations of the law’s provisions that are summarized below. For a broader overview of the My Health My Data Act, see here.
- Businesses located outside of the state of Washington that only store data in Washington are not regulated entities
Per Section 3 (7), the act protects “consumers,” which includes a natural person whose consumer health data is collected in Washington. “Collect” is defined in Section 3 (5) to include the processing of consumer health data in any manner. Questions have been raised if this means that a business located outside of Washington that collects consumer health data about individuals outside of Washington but that stores such data in Washington is a regulated entity subject to the act. The FAQs assert that an entity that only stores data in Washington is not a regulated entity.
- Inferences about a consumer’s health status from purchases of products could be considered consumer health data
Consumer health data is defined as “personal information that is linked or reasonably linkable to a consumer, and that identifies the consumer’s past, present, or future physical or mental health status”. The definition goes on to give non-exhaustive examples of physical or mental health status. Questions have been raised if inferences drawn about a consumer’s health status from purchases of products could be considered consumer health data. The FAQs assert that, yes, any inferences drawn from purchases could be consumer health data. In contrast, non-health data that a regulated entity collects but does not process to identify or associate with a physical or mental health status is not consumer health data.
- Contradictory retention and deletion requirements should be solved by redaction
Under Section 9 of the act, it is unlawful for anyone to sell or offer to sell consumer health data without first obtaining valid authorization from the consumer. When a consumer grants a person valid authorization to sell their consumer health data, both the seller and purchaser are required to retain a copy of the valid authorization for six years. Section 6 of the act empowers consumers to have their consumer health data deleted from a regulated entity’s network, including archived or backup systems. Begging the question of how the retention and deletion requirements can be reconciled.
The FAQ guidance provides that if, after executing a valid authorization, a consumer exercises their Section 6 right to have their consumer health data deleted, a regulated entity may meet its obligation to delete the consumer’s health data and its obligation to retain a copy of the valid authorization by redacting the portion of the valid authorization that specifies the consumer health data for sale (for example, by applying a redaction that states: “REDACTED pursuant to consumer deletion request on [insert date]”).