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Governor Newsom Signs Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan’s Bill that Ends Harvesting of Mental Health Data

AB 2089 will add HIPAA protections to the sensitive information collected by digital services that provide mental healthcare

For immediate release:

Sacramento, CA – Today, Governor Newsom signed AB 2089, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer Kahan (D-Orinda)’s bill to protect mental health data privacy.

“What surgeries or hospitalizations have you had?”

“On a scale of 1-3, how often do you feel as if something terrible might happen?”

If a patient answered these questions above in a doctor’s office, any information collected would be protected by federal health privacy laws like HIPAA. However, if a patient answers these questions to connect to a mental health provider through an online app, the service could, and does, harvest and sell this information. Since the pandemic, the online mental healthcare space has exploded with as many as 20,000 apps offering services in this category globally. These companies will earn profits from the mental health crisis, and they target advertisements to individuals based on probable diagnosis.

“It’s unacceptable to force patients to sacrifice privacy for care,” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “When I go to seek care in a doctor’s office, I know that every piece of information I share is protected. It should be no different online. With the signature of AB 2089, we are protecting this sensitive health data as it should be”

“Over the last few years, I’ve seen over and over how these therapy apps monetize and take advantage of people’s private mental health information,” said Jeff Guenther, a licensed professional counselor and popular online creator who has called out these predatory practices. “People in desperate need of care are exploited by vague and hard to understand privacy policies and have no legal recourse.”

With the Governor’s signature, AB 2089 will ensure standardized information security across modes of care to protect patients.