To Please Medical Devices Manufacturers, FDA Officials Collected Private Emails of Scientists
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Jeffrey Shuren, Director of FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health
It turns out that the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) spying on scientists was far greater than previously known and included communications with members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials and journalists.
Starting in 2010, FDA officials investigated leaks of confidential information by five scientists. From there the surveillance grew into a “much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process,” according to The New York Times.
In time the agency collected the private emails of FDA scientists by using spy software that captured screen images from the government laptops being used at work or at home. FDA leader were able to track keystrokes, intercept personal emails, and copy documents on personal thumb drives.
The surveillance program grew out of a dispute in which some FDA scientists accused the agency of approving medical imaging devices used for mammograms and colonoscopies that they considered exposed the patients to dangerous levels of radiation.
The snooping identified more than 20 agency employees, as well as congressional officials, outside medical researchers and reporters. In January, six of the scientists and doctors filed a lawsuit against the FDA. All of them worked for the Office of Device Evaluation. The spying began after Ken Ferry, the president of iCAD Inc., the company that manufactured the mammogram device, wrote to the FDA to complain.
Jeffrey Shuren, Director of FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, was sympathetic to Ferry, as well as another challenged manufacturer, General Electric, and began using automated software to collect screen captures of the scientists’ computers and intercept their email.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
Vast F.D.A. Effort Tracked E-Mails of Its Scientists (by Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane, New York Times)
Former FDA Scientists and Doctors Sue FDA over Secret Surveillance (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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