FACT Act Would Expose Asbestos Victims Personal Information

Illustration of legal cases for asbestos and mesothelioma

The FACT Act moves through Congress this week, which could result in asbestos victims’ personal data and medical histories getting published on the Internet for anyone to view.

The Republican introduced bill is sponsored by Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. The majority of the FACT Act affects how information with asbestos case settlements is handled. Farenthold’s intentions are to decrease fraud by making the names and histories public of those suffering and claiming compensation.

Supporters believe the new way proposed in the bill would stop attorneys from filing several awards for the same victims and keep the federal money addressing this problem from dwindling.

Many privacy and public interest groups have appealed to the House Cybersecurity Caucus before. Now these organizations are in an 11th-hour campaign of petitioning, saying the FACT Act would increase incidents of identity theft against the already suffering victims.

The draft legislation could get a House vote this week. Trusts would need to create quarterly public reports “listing the name and exposure history of those who have filed a claim with such trust and any payments made to claimants and the basis for such payments.”

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund, Essential Information, Government Accountability Project, Patient Privacy Rights, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, TURN-The Utility Reform Network, and World Privacy Forum make up the petitioning coalition.

A parody website was created and many letters and editorials have been written by the group. The coalition wrote a letter on Tuesday stating the bill would “force the online disclosure of sensitive personal information of sick and dying asbestos victims seeking compensation for their illnesses.”

The letter continued, “Disclosure would include the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, work and medical histories, full name and birth year, among other details, on a publicly accessible website where anyone with access to a computer can view and download.

The FACT Act would create conditions that are ripe for scam artists and identity thieves to prey on all victims of asbestos exposure who have filed claims with trusts established to ensure compensation for harm caused by asbestos corporations.

The publicly disclosed information required by the bill could be used, disclosed, and processed with few restrictions by any person, anywhere in the world. No U.S. privacy law would apply to the information once it is disclosed.”

Many other groups have submitted statements opposing the bill, including American Veterans (AMVETS), the Association of the U.S. Navy, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Educational Association, and AFSCME.