Published: Thu, November 14, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Federal Regulators Begin Probe into Google’s Collection of Detailed Medical Records

Federal Regulators Begin Probe into Google’s Collection of Detailed Medical Records

A USA federal regulator has initiated an investigation into a cloud computing deal between Alphabet Inc's Google and Ascension Health [ASCNH.UL] which would give Google access to detailed health information of millions of patients, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. From the report, the company did not ask for permission to collect this information. Google on its part has put forward its stance in a blog post, "To be clear: under this arrangement, Ascension's data can not be used for any other goal than for providing these services we're offering under the agreement, and patient data can not and will not be combined with any Google consumer data". The Journal reports that employees across Google's parent company, Alphabet, already have access to the data, including employees at Google Brain, the company's research science division. I understand that Ascension it trying their best to improve patient care and save themselves some administrative costs but that does not alleviate my concern about Google having all of this information.

"We are only allowed to do these things, and we also do it in strict accordance with the law", he said.

In response to the whistleblower claims, Google and Ascension have both released statements on Project Nightingale, explaining that the project's goal is to enhance the delivery of healthcare through modern tools, thereby improving patient and consumer experience.

Indeed, the organization says it "will seek to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals' medical records to ensure that HIPAA protections were fully implemented". That would imply Google will not use the healthcare information to target adverts at consumers of Google expert services. HHS representative also did not respond to a request for comment. The data Ascension have shared with Google include lab results, hospitalization records, diagnoses by doctors, patient names, and dates of birth.

"All data is logically stored independently for Ascension. It has a virtual private space encrypted with a private key", Curryland said. But the Journal reported some Ascension employees questioned how Google is sharing and collecting patient data.

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Democrat Senator, Richard Blumenthal, believes that Google's behavior "blatantly despise privacy" and "renews the bottom line of shame".

In fact do you trust any of your data with Google, let alone your medical data? According to Klobuchar, the legislation "would require the Department of Health and Human Services to work with the Federal Trade Commission and issue meaningful regulations that protect private health data not covered under existing privacy law".

Under the deal (code-named "Project Nightingale"), Google provides Ascension with cloud-based storage and other tools to centralize their data management and streamline their patient care. The project is still in its early stages, but it may eventually become a stand-alone product. Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian has made it precedence in his 1st yr on the job to intrusively chase business from leaders in six industries, together with healthcare.

"If we can help solve information overload and ease the pressure on doctors and nurses, then such tools can benefit more people", Feinberg said.

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