[P]atient and work force experts say the gaffe could have a lasting impact on how comfortable—or discomfited—Americans feel about bosses’ data-mining their personal lives. [...]All of a sudden AOL management has decided not to be so loose-lipped. Too bad that circumspection didn't occur to Armstrong when he was on a company-wide conference call. But at least they're sorry now. They still haven't explained away that $7.1 million cost of Obamacare Armstrong asserted, which is pretty much completely impossible, or how two patients could cost the company $2 million out-of-pocket, something that many health care experts are puzzled by given the size of AOL and the regular business practices large companies take to protect against those kinds of costs. Since AOL has decided to shut up about it all now (better late than never?) we might never know.
"This example shows how easy it is for employers to find out if employees have a rare medical condition," said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights, a nonprofit group in Austin, Tex. She urged regulators to investigate Mr. Armstrong’s disclosure about the babies, saying "he completely outed these two families."
In response to a query about how Mr. Armstrong learned the specifics of the AOL employees' situations, Doug Serton, a spokesman for AOL, said, "We aren't commenting on these issues."
But AOL shareholders should be more than a little concerned that the guy steering this company can't keep his mouth shut on something as sensitive as employees' privacy, or apparently can't make good enough business decisions to prevent the company from catastrophic medical costs.