Blue Cross & Blue Shield criticized over handling of private dat - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

Blue Cross & Blue Shield criticized over handling of private data

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is under fire after a disgruntled employee released internal emails calling into question how the company protects its customers' health care data. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is under fire after a disgruntled employee released internal emails calling into question how the company protects its customers' health care data.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is under fire after a disgruntled employee released internal emails calling into question how the company protects its customers' health care data.

The emails detail how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina shares private information of hundreds of thousands of its clients to an outside company that helps design its software.

Blue Cross says it is not required to mask data, and it meets or exceeds all safety requirements for data safety. The company says it protects the information, which includes names, Social Security numbers and medical data, with hardware and software that control how it is used and strict contracts.

Blue Cross says is requires any subcontractor it works with to use the same standards it uses internally to safeguard customer data.

The company also points out that it has never had a security breach.

Still, customers are concerned.

"They have no control over what happened to it once it's out of their system," customer Beth Ingersoll said.

Computer experts say the practice is dangerous and recommend the insurer look at scrambling the data.

"If you're using data for testing purposes like blue cross says it was doing, it is standard to mask out the identifying information -- the names, the patient numbers, social security numbers, anything that can compromise or determine someone's identity," said Tony Hayden with Sabre Network.

Blue Cross is the biggest private health insurer in North Carolina, with 3.7 million members. A 2010 company memo says it sent the complete data of 845,000 clients to an outside software company without scrambling it.

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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