Every day it seems, we hear yet another story about silicon valley’s intrusions into our private lives and, especially, our private data. And what could be more private than our health information?
We have another whistleblower story. This one is an actual whistleblower raising alarms about the vast of medical information being sucked up by Google… on the order of tens of millions of American’s private medical documents.
A whistleblower who works in Project Nightingale, the secret transfer of the personal medical data of up to 50 million Americans from one of the largest healthcare providers in the US to Google, has expressed anger to the Guardian that patients are being kept in the dark about the massive deal.
The anonymous whistleblower has posted a video on the social media platform Daily Motion that contains a document dump of hundreds of images of confidential files relating to Project Nightingale. The secret scheme, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, involves the transfer to Google of healthcare data held by Ascension, the second-largest healthcare provider in the US. The data is being transferred with full personal details including name and medical history and can be accessed by Google staff. Unlike other similar efforts it has not been made anonymous through a process of removing personal information known as de-identification.
The whistleblower introduces the video with the words: “I must speak out about the things that are going on behind the scenes.”
The disclosed documents include highly confidential outlines of Project Nightingale, laying out the four stages or “pillars” of the secret project. By the time the transfer is completed next March, it will have passed the personal data of 50 million or more patients in 21 states to Google, with 10 million or so files already having moved across – with no warning having been given to patients or doctors.
How can Google possibly get away with having so much access to this amount of information? Especially with their track record of profiting over the personal information they have gathered?
It’s simple. Google came alongside as ‘partners’ to Ascension, which is a Catholic network consisting of 2,600 hospitals, clinics and other medical outlets. On the basis of being partners, Google gained access to this enormous cache of medical data.
Google aims to design new software with the data that will suggest improvements in patient care directly to individual patients. Ascension, a Catholic hospital network, wants to use the data to improve patient care, mining the data to suggest additional tests for patients.
According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, hospitals may share patient data with business partners without notifying patients as long as that information is “used only to help the covered entity carry out its health-care functions.”
Nevertheless, several Ascension employees voiced concerns regarding the ways Google and Ascension are gathering the data, according to internal documents reviewed by the Journal. While Ascension did not immediately comment on the report, a spokesman for Google said the project is completely in line with federal law.
Is this part of their business model in monetizing us without that ‘minor’ inconvenience of acquiring our consent?
What could POSSIBLY go wrong with having all of our personal health data in the cloud?
And is this health gathering move in any way connected with their recent acquisition of FitBit, which would produce an additional treasure trove of personal data, health and otherwise?
But we’re all supposed to be ok with that, right?
We’ll see about that, won’t we?
Officials on both sides of the aisle are getting tired of the liberties Silicon Valley has been taking with the public. How long do you suppose it will be before we see a biparitsan move to hold some of these Tech Giants to greater account for the information they acquire?
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