The Supremes Debate Pharma Data Case


Assistant Attorney General Bridget Asay argued on Tuesday that data vendors should have to request permission from doctors to access anonymous data that they have provided to pharmacists. Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts, in an often hilarious back and forth, argued that Vermont simply wanted to block marketers from using data to fine-tune campaigns directed at doctors, so that generic drugs, which are cheaper for the State of Vermont to pay for, would have a fighting chance over big brand names.

The structure of the Justices’ arguments suggest that the Court is moving towards overturning restrictions on anonymous data usage by marketing companies in Vermont. This decision would have wide-ranging effects for the advertising industry as a whole as digital marketers will now have case law from the nation’s highest court which would assert that anonymous data cannot be regulated by states and that a marketing campaign’s methods of connecting with consumers may be classified as free speech in most events. This would also be a blow to consumer data privacy advocates desiring strict limits on how, when and where anonymous data may be transferred and used.
“It’s problematic for the State to make a determination as to what uses information can be put,” stated Chief Justice Roberts. The Supreme Court will rule in June on the matter. Read the full transcript of the conversation here.

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