FDA accused of monitoring staff
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) secretly monitored the personal e-mail of a group of its own scientists and doctors after they warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that posed unacceptable risks to patients, government documents show.world Updated: Jan 31, 2012 00:55 IST
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) secretly monitored the personal e-mail of a group of its own scientists and doctors after they warned Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that posed unacceptable risks to patients, government documents show.
The surveillance — detailed in e-mails and memos unearthed by the scientists and doctors, who filed a lawsuit against the FDA in US District Court in Washington this week — took place over two years as the plaintiffs accessed their personal Gmail accounts from government computers.
Information garnered this way eventually contributed to the harassment or dismissal of all six of the FDA employees, the suit alleges.
All had worked in an office responsible for reviewing devices for cancer screening and other purposes.
The government documents show that, starting in January 2009, the FDA intercepted communications with congressional staffers and draft versions of whistleblower complaints complete with editing notes in the margins.
The agency also took electronic snapshots of the computer desktops of the FDA employees and reviewed documents they saved on the hard drives of their government computers.
FDA computers post a warning, visible when users log on, that they should have “no reasonable expectation of privacy” in any data passing through or stored on the system, and that the government may intercept any such data at any time for any lawful government purpose.
But in the suit, the doctors and scientists say the government violated their constitutional privacy rights by gazing into personal e-mail accounts for the purpose of monitoring activity that they say was lawful.
An FDA spokeswoman, Erica Jefferson, said the agency does not comment on litigation.
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First Published: Jan 31, 2012 00:53 IST