Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law last week legislation aimed at protecting the personal health data of all Washingtonians, making the state the first in the nation to codify into law broad protections for consumer health data.

Gov. Inslee was joined by several House Democrats and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in Seattle to sign the bill into law.

The My Health, My Data Act requires companies to get consent from consumers to collect, share or sell health data, which is defined broadly 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.”

“Health data collected by non-covered entities, including certain apps and websites, are not afforded the same protections. This act works to close the gap between consumer knowledge and industry practice by providing stronger privacy protections for all Washington consumers’ health data,” the law reads.

The law prohibits advertising companies from using geofence technology in particular locations, such as healthcare facilities, to collect and sell data. In addition, the law provides for a private right of action that enables consumers to sue companies that don’t get their explicit consent to use their data. The state’s attorney general can take civil action on behalf of consumers under the act.

“This law provides Washingtonians control over their personal health data,” Ferguson said in a press release. “Washingtonians deserve the right to decide who shares and sells their health data, and the freedom to demand that corporations delete their sensitive health data — and will now have these protections.”

The law also protects the health data of individuals who visit Washington seeking health care such as reproductive and gender-affirming services. Additionally, the law seeks to fill gaps left by the Federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, as it only pertains to health data collected by healthcare providers.

“Without a Federal policy, this is where we are and the first in the nation bill we need,” Rep. Vandana Slatter, D-Wash., said “I’m grateful to my colleagues and the attorney general for choosing to rise to the occasion in protecting people’s right to privacy, personal agency, and safe medical care.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.