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Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel

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Nobody Knows the Mib

As part of his Ph.D. thesis at the Harvard Business School on privacy policies in corporate America, Jeff Smith surveyed more than a thousand people on a variety of privacy issues, and conducted in-depth interviews with several dozen. One of the key questions he asked was whether people had ever heard of a company called the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). What he found wasn't terribly surprising—they hadn't:

Only one consumer in the sample was aware of the existence of MIB, even though all but two of the consumers had applied for life insurance and had gone through an underwriting process. One can only conclude that the consumers had not read the insurance application forms very carefully, since the MIB notification was surely included. However, this lack of awareness may also point to some inadequacies in the notification procedure.[17]

I asked my wife if she knew what the Medical Information Bureau was. She said that she didn't. I then showed her a medical insurance application that she had filled out nearly two years before. It included these two paragraphs:

I AUTHORIZE any physician, medical practitioner, hospital, clinic, other medical or medically-related facility, the Medical Information Bureau, Inc., (MIB, Inc.), consumer reporting agency, insurance or reinsuring company, or employer having certain information about me or my dependents to give John Alden Life Insurance Company or its legal representative any and all such information. The nature of the ...

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