15. "What Does the MIB Know About You?"
For more than 50 years, a little known American firm has collected
and spread intimate details about the private lives of American citizens.
It is not the CIA nor the FBI but a similar organization in private
industry called the Medical Information Bureau (MIB).
The MIB gathers data from insurance companies on individuals -- their
blood pressure, mental problems, and drinking excesses -- and then makes
the information available to more than 750 insurance companies in the
United States and Canada.
The MIB now has files on 15 million Americans and adds about 400,000
new names a year. The only means of verifying information it receives
is one employee who spot-checks reports. And the MIB insists that the
information contained in its files should not be made available to the
The Privacy Protection Study Commission, a federal agency established
to monitor abuses of privacy, has concluded:
1 -- Consumers lack adequate knowledge of how their personal medical
records will be used.
2 -- Some insurance companies base adverse decisions solely on MIB
3 -- Applicants cannot require that this information not be used by
the MIB. Even examining physicians themselves are not told that the
medical information they compile will be disseminated to 750 insurance
The failure of the mass media to inform the public of this large-scale,
ongoing invasion of privacy qualifies this story for nomination as one
of the "best censored" stories of 1978.
Mother Jones, June, 1978, "A Case of Medical Espionage?",
by Matt Van Norden.