In today's terrifying dystopian news: Google is reportedly collecting detailed health data on millions of Americans—without their knowledge.
The Wall Street Journal reports the data was obtained under "Project Nightingale," a collaborative initiative between Google and the world's second-largest health care system, Ascension. Sources familiar with the matter told WSJ that more than 100 Google employees had access to personal health data—including names, birthdates, lab results, and hospital records—of up to 50 million Americans across 21 states. The outlet reports neither the patients nor physicians were notified about the initiative, which is part of Google's efforts to create an AI-based health care service.
Ascension outlined the goal of its Google partnership in a recent online post. Key points included, "Modernizing Ascension’s infrastructure by transitioning to the secure, reliable and intelligent Google Cloud Platform"; "Transitioning to Google’s G Suite productivity and collaboration tools"; and "Exploring artificial intelligence/machine learning applications that will have the potential to support improvements in clinical quality and effectiveness..."
Insiders said Ascension employees have raised questions and ethical concerns over the project; however, both companies insist the initiative is compliant with federal law, and that all personal data is protected.
"All of Google’s work with Ascension adheres to industry-wide regulations (including HIPAA) regarding patient data, and come with strict guidance on data privacy, security and usage," Tariq Shaukat, president of Google Cloud, said in a blog post. " This is standard practice in healthcare, as patient data is frequently managed in electronic systems that nurses and doctors widely use to deliver patient care. To be clear: under this arrangement, Ascension’s data cannot be used for any other purpose than for providing these services we’re offering under the agreement, and patient data cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data."
Despite the companies' claims, many people have criticized Project Nightingale as a violation of privacy and have questioned its legality.