Google secretly swallowed health data of 'tens of millions' of Americans

Wednesday, 13 Nov, 2019

"To be clear: under this arrangement, Ascension's data can not be used for any other objective 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", Google said in a blog post.

The partnership between Google and the medical system, Ascension, could have huge reach.

Google aims to design new software with the data that will suggest improvements in patient care directly to individual patients.

Google has gained access to a huge trove of U.S. patient data - without the need to notify those patients - thanks to a deal with a major health firm.

An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018.

Project Nightingale gives Google access to tens of millions of patients' names, health histories, date of birth, lab results, diagnoses and hospitalization records from Ascension.

From a privacy and legal standpoint, Project Nightingale appears to fall within the bounds of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Ascension operates in 150 hospitals in 21 states.

Google's cloud team works with dozens of healthcare service providers on technology to analyze medical data and make it readily available to patients and those treating them, according to the company.

The multi-billion-dollar health care industry has always been on the radar for Google - and now the tech behemoth is in it in a big way. Earlier this month, the tech giant also announced it was buying fitness tracker maker Fitbit for $2.1 billion, giving it additional access to millions of users' health-related data.

Though cloud storage is a business with thinning profit margins, Google Cloud has said it hopes to separate itself from larger rivals Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services with a superior slate of high-margin AI tools.

Shaukat continued saying the deal would focus on three areas: moving Ascension's infrastructure to the cloud; using G Suite productivity tools such as Google Docs; and "extending tools to doctors and nurses to improve care".

In its announcement on Monday, Ascension said the deal complied with the law and followed the organization's "strict requirements for data handling".