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Security & privacy

Privacy warning: Google has detailed health records on millions of Americans

Here’s a shocker: another high-tech company has gathered an enormous amount of information on consumers and, of course, it’s all behind closed doors. Tap or click here to learn how companies track your iPhone without permission.

While this topic blankets home screens and front pages more often than not, one has to wonder when, if ever, data collection is a good thing. Think about it: if it’s not criminals stealing private data, it’s marketers or even the very companies we entrust with our information.

A recent report revealed that for over a year, Google has been secretly gathering health records under the guise of benefiting patients. Are its intentions genuinely altruistic? You be the judge.

Project Nightingale

The Wall Street Journal reported Google privately partnered with Ascension, the nation’s second-largest health care system, last year. They dubbed their secret venture “Project Nightingale.” The initiative’s focus was to collect and study medial information on tens of millions of patients throughout 21 states, in part to create an AI-powered health care system.

The details

Patient records collected and shared between the two companies contain a comprehensive health history that includes names, birth dates, lab tests, diagnoses and hospitalizations. While both companies failed to notify patients and physicians of this data collection, over 100 Google employees have had access to a large portion of the information.

Privacy experts noted the initiative’s processes are legal under HIPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws, but questions have arisen among some Ascension employees concerning how the data is collected and shared. Tap or click to see how millions of medical records are open to the public.

The defense

Google and Ascension both defend their project and practices, stating they are federally compliant and have reliable data protection. Both companies further argue Project Nightingale will improve healthcare for patients and reduce costs.

Eduardo Conrado, executive vice president at Ascension, views the project as a transformation in the healthcare industry to better meet the needs and expectations of the patients his company serves, in addition to caregivers and health care providers.

According to the WSJ, Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, gave an interview in 2014 in which he insinuated patients were too guarded over the privacy of their medical records. He stated people aren’t thinking about the greater good that can come from sharing data with the “right people in the right ways.”

The “right way” would be not to collect data in secret, but to ask for permission beforehand. Regardless of intentions, people are doubtful, question and are troubled by the actions of Google and Ascension.

Let’s face it, consumers are tired of corporations repeatedly touting how well they protect their customers and data, or their claims that information collected is for worthy reasons, only to catch them sneaking in the shadows. Tap or click here to see the apps that are tracking you and stealing your data.

We could learn to trust these corporations, but this time Google and Ascension have lost all credibility — all because they couldn’t be honest.

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