In his role as Deputy Director, Mid-States Region, Stephen Murphy, J.D., focuses on public health data access and data sharing. Prior to coming to the Network, Stephen was an attorney for the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) concentrating on public health data privacy and public health law. During his time at CDPH, Stephen was the City of Chicago HIPAA Privacy Officer and served on the department’s institutional review board.

Stephen has a law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in economics and Spanish from University College Dublin, Ireland. Following law school, Stephen completed a judicial clerkship at the Circuit Court of Illinois, Cook County Circuit. He is licensed to practice law in California and Illinois and is a native of Ireland.

Articles & Resources

Office for Civil Rights and Federal Trade Commission Renew Warnings of Online Tracking and Health Information

Law & Policy InsightsHealth Information and Data SharingHealth Data Sharing and Privacy

November 2, 2023
by Stephen Murphy

The OCR and FTC have issued renewed warnings regarding the dangers of online tracking technologies and the harm they can pose to the privacy of an individual’s health information. OCR and FTC warn that tracking technologies collect identifiable information, mostly unbeknownst to users, and can lead to violations of three federal laws by regulated entities.

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Office for Civil Rights Announces Proposed Modifications to HIPAA to Protect Reproductive Health Data

Law & Policy InsightsHealth Information and Data SharingReproductive Health and Equity 

May 24, 2023
by Stephen Murphy

A notice of proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule was recently issued to bolster the privacy of protected health information (PHI) relating to reproductive health care. The proposed changes are the latest in a series of steps by the Biden administration addressing privacy of reproductive health information following the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last summer. This post takes a closer look at the proposed changes to HIPAA.

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Federal, State and Local Efforts to Protect the Privacy of Abortion Health Records

Fact SheetReproductive Health and Equity Health and Health CareHealth Information and Data Sharing

May 3, 2023
by Stephen Murphy

In the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, one abortion case involving a 10-year-old rape victim called into question issues of privacy when the attorney general in the case sought access to the minor’s abortion records. The case illustrates how, in the legal tug of war over abortion, health information may be weaponized against providers and individuals seeking or obtaining reproductive health services. This fact sheet explores actions taken at all levels of government to enhance protections of abortion-related health records and data.

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Managing Privacy Risks to Advance Health Equity through Dissemination of Disaggregated Data

Law & Policy InsightsHealth Data Sharing and PrivacyDe-identification of DataHealth Information and Data Sharing

January 10, 2023
by Stephen Murphy

Dissemination of data disaggregated by race and ethnicity is an important step in advancing health equity. However, the public dissemination of datasets that include race and ethnicity raises important legal considerations around privacy, primarily around re-identification. Re-identification refers to the ability to use data from a de-identified dataset to identify individuals. Modifications to the released data can reduce re-identification risks while maximizing the data’s utility.

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Disaggregation of Public Health Data by Race & Ethnicity: A Legal Handbook

HandbookHealth Information and Data SharingHealth Data Sharing and PrivacyPublic Health Information Management, Privacy and Security

December 14, 2022
by Carrie Waggoner and Stephen Murphy

Detailed race and ethnicity data in public health is needed to adequately identify, assess, and address health inequities and structural racism, yet this type of data is often not utilized because of misunderstandings around the legality of collecting and sharing it. To assist public health practitioners and attorneys across state, Tribal, and local governments in the use of data to advance health equity, the Network has produced a legal handbook that addresses the role of law in collecting and disseminating public health data disaggregated by race and ethnicity.    

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What You May Not Know About HIPAA’s Right of Access

Law & Policy InsightsHealth Data Sharing and Privacy

October 18, 2022
by Stephen Murphy

Many state and local public health departments are covered entities under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and must provide individuals with access to their protected health information. However, covered entities that are unfamiliar with a key provision of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, and its implications for the use of written authorizations to release protected health information to a third party, may be in jeopardy of violating the right of access.

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The Limits of HIPAA in Keeping Reproductive Health Records Private

Fact SheetHealth Data Sharing and PrivacyLegislation and Legal ChallengesHealth and Health Care

August 2, 2022
by Stephen Murphy

In its recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization, the United States Supreme Court held there is no constitutional right to abortion. The dissenters in Dobbs warned of far-reaching state restrictions that may include blocking pregnant individuals from traveling to another state to terminate a pregnancy; prohibiting pregnant individuals from obtaining abortion pills out-of-state; and even criminalizing the provision of information to those seeking out-of-state abortions. With these broad ramifications in mind, the threat of law enforcement gaining access to health records is a growing concern. In this fact sheet, we provide additional guidance on how HIPAA applies to abortion records. We caution that HIPAA includes several provisions permitting disclosure of an individual’s abortion records to law enforcement when specific conditions are met.

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Information Blocking Rule: A New Tool to Facilitate Public Health Data Collection

Law & Policy InsightsPublic Health Information Management, Privacy and SecurityMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

June 14, 2022
by Stephen Murphy

The COVID pandemic has brought into sharp focus the crucial nature of data in helping drive decision-making, directing public health interventions, focusing limited resources, and allocating precious grant dollars. The new federal Information Blocking Rule may provide local and state health departments with an additional tool to enhance collection of key public health data and overcome some of the barriers to reporting of data by health care providers and others.

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