by Aaron Kesel, Activist Post:
There has been serious backlash against Google for hoarding health data of 50 million Americans through Project Nightingale. The once social media giant is now shifting focus from just a search engine and video platform with its subsidiary YouTube, to a megalithic corporation seeking to monopolize our daily lives in not only health and technology but banking as well, CNBC reported.
Whistleblower: Google Wants To Enter Healthcare
Google is partnered with the second leading healthcare provider in the U.S., Ascension, and has access to the personal health information of millions of Americans across 21 states. The data acquired includes names, dates of birth, lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records on millions upon millions, according to the Wall Street Journal. The action has many worried — lawyers, doctors and tech experts have reacted with horror and fury to the fact Google had access to medical records without prior knowledge or consent.
The data comes after a whistleblower leaked the plan known as Project Nightingale, expressing outrage to the Guardian and a number of news media outlets.
Google and Ascension boasted that the scheme is completely legal. However, the ethics behind such a plan without the consent of those involved is in question. Neither doctors nor patients were informed that the data-gathering was taking place or given the chance to opt-out.
Google says the partnership is aimed at “improving patient outcomes and saving lives” and is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which controls the privacy of health data.
The act allows hospitals to share patients’ medical data with business partners on the condition that it is used to “help the entity carry out its healthcare functions.”
Google Cloud President Tariq Shaukat in a statement said, “by working in partnership with leading healthcare systems like Ascension, we hope to transform the delivery of healthcare through the power of the cloud, data analytics, machine learning, and modern productivity tools—ultimately improving outcomes, reducing costs, and saving lives.”
As part of its deal with Ascension, Google states the data can only be used for the purpose of providing healthcare at Ascension and will not be combined with consumer data. However, Google has a very spotty history for privacy holding just online fingerprints of someone.
Further, Google has a long standing history with the NSA since 2009 forming a “cooperative research and development agreement,” a legal pact that was originally devised under a 1980 law to speed up the commercial development of new technologies that are of mutual interest to companies and the government.
In 2015, the Huffington Post wrote an article “Why Google’s Spying on User Data Is Worse than the NSA’s” detailing various reasons why Google’s spying is a bigger problem then even intelligence agencies. Two years later, Google was caught personalizing Gmail ads based on its scanning of words in email messages.
Activist Post Recommended Book: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
Google also previously acknowledged to state officials in 2013 that it had violated people’s privacy during its Street View mapping project when it casually scooped up passwords, e-mail and other personal information from unsuspecting computer users.
YouTube agreed in September to pay $170 million in fines and change its practices in response to complaints that it illegally collected data on children to sell ads. However, the video company didn’t admit or deny any wrongdoing on its part.
So how then can anyone reasonably trust Google with such important records as someone’s health?
Ascension says the partnership is designed to “optimize the health and wellness of individuals and communities.”
The companies claim they want to help improve patients’ health and save lives. This is significant because Google just acquired Fitbit, a company which produces watches and bracelets that track health information like a person’s heart rate, giving us all a glimpse of the industry direction in which Google is heading: health and wellness.
It is worth noting that Google attempted to enter the health care industry before but failed adoption after three long years of pushing its Google Health, a previous effort to digitize patient medical records into the cloud.
Project Cache: Google Wants To Become Your Bank
Although little is known about the project, at the same time another wing of Google is exploring banking solutions partnered with various banks and credit unions to offer “smart checking” accounts through Google Pay. To start out, Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union are two of the biggest banks involved with Project Cache, Tech Crunch reported.
This should be no surprise since Google Pay has been one of Google’s major features that it rolled out across Android phones in September 11, 2015 under Android Pay, re-branding in 2018 to the self-titled name.
As a reminder for readers, Google was involved with the U.S. government and Chinese government with two separate projects; one where the company was using its A.I. to help the U.S. military (Project Maven), and the other where the tech giant produced a censored version of its search engine appeasing China’s demands (Project Dragonfly).
Dragonfly involved plans to implement a censored version of Google’s search engine inside China, and Google sought to suppress the internal memo about it. Further, if that’s not enough, the company wanted phone numbers linked to the searches.
In May of last year, Activist Post reported that Google had removed multiple references to its old catchphrase “Don’t be evil” from its Code of Conduct; as employees expressed outrage over the company’s decision to work with the Pentagon’s Project Maven, including signing a petition and quitting. This caused Google to walk back the plans, denouncing support for Maven by stating that the company would not be renewing the military contract and would stop in 2019.
General Joseph Dunford previously lambasted Google prior in December of last year when he criticized the search giant for not working with the U.S. military and wanting to work with China.
“I’m not sure that people at Google will enjoy a world order that is informed by the norms and standards of Russia or China,” Dunford said.