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Tech Giant Google Secretly Gathering Health Information of Millions of US Citizens

According to Google, some of the solutions it is working on with Ascension are not yet in active clinical deployment, but rather are in early testing

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The Google name is displayed outside the company's office in London, Britain. VOA

Google is reportedly gathering health information of millions of US citizens — without informing them or their doctors — to design an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven software, the media reported.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, “Google is engaged with one of the US’s largest health-care systems on a project to collect and crunch the detailed personal-health information of millions of people across 21 states” and at least 150 Google staffers may have access to the data.

St. Louis-based faith-based healthcare organisation Ascension is sharing lab results, diagnoses and hospitalisation records — as well as health histories complete with patient names and dates of birth — with Google, the report claimed.

“The initiative, code-named ‘Project Nightingale,’ appears to be the biggest effort yet by a Silicon Valley giant to gain a toehold in the health-care industry through the handling of patients medical data,” the report said.

The crunching of health data is the next big frontier for tech giants as Apple to Amazon and Microsoft are aiming big to infuse data findings into their devices and solutions in the burgeoning healthcare space.

The New York Times later wrote that “dozens of Google employees” may have access to sensitive patient data and some may have downloaded that data too.

As part of “Project Nightingale”, Ascension uploaded patient data to Google’s Cloud servers.

In a blog post, Google tried to clarify its partnership with Ascension.

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FILE -Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during the keynote address of the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, Calif., May 7, 2019. VOA

“All of Google’s work with Ascension adheres to industry-wide regulations regarding patient data, and come with strict guidance on data privacy, security and usage,” said Tariq Shaukat, President, Industry Products and Solutions, Google Cloud.

Google said it has a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Ascension, which governs access to Protected Health Information (PHI) for the purpose of helping providers support 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,” said the company.

Ascension also issued a statement, saying it is working with Google to optimise the health and wellness of individuals and communities, and deliver a comprehensive portfolio of digital capabilities that enhance the experience of Ascension consumers, patients and clinical providers across the continuum of care.

“All work related to Ascension’s engagement with Google is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliant and underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascension’s strict requirements for data handling,” said the healthcare company.

Also Read: Microsoft to Implement California’s Digital Privacy Law Throughout the US

According to Google, some of the solutions it is working on with Ascension are not yet in active clinical deployment, but rather are in early testing.

“This is one of the reasons we used a code name for the work — in this case, Nightingale,” it added.

However, neither Google nor Ascension directly replied to the WSJ report.

In 2017, Google partnered with the University of Chicago Medical Centre to develop machine learning tools capable of “accurately predicting medical events — such as whether patients will be hospitalised, how long they will stay, and whether their health is deteriorating despite treatment for conditions such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, or heart failure.” (IANS)

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Now, Google G Suite Has 6 Million Paid Customers (Tech Report)

The tech giant said there is now a hosted repository of related public datasets available to explore and analyze for free from the Google Cloud Console

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Google G Suite faces competition from Microsoft's Office 365 set of Cloud-based services. Pixabay

Googles G Suite now has six million paid customers, up from 5 million in February last year and the company’s video calling service Meet is witnessing 25 times more traction since January.

According to a CNBC report, quoting Google executive Javier Soltero, the paying customers for Google’s G Suite bundle of productivity software are coming from businesses, schools and governments. Google G Suite faces competition from Microsoft’s Office 365 set of Cloud-based services.

“The business of G Suite is growing at an incredibly healthy and, frankly for me, surprising rate,” Soltero, vice president and general manager of G Suite at Google, was quoted as saying.
Google Meet is different from the Hangouts, which is available to all with a Google account.

In a separate blog post, Google said it has announced free access to advanced Meet capabilities to G Suite and G Suite for Education customers.

It includes room for up to 250 participants per call, live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain, and the ability to record meetings and save them to Google Drive.

Google
Googles G Suite now has six million paid customers, up from 5 million in February last year and the company’s video calling service Meet is witnessing 25 times more traction since January. Pixabay

“Lots of people are working from home now for the first time. This means that networks are strained with more people accessing their email and internet from home, as well as taking part in video conferences,” said Google.

The tech giant said there is now a hosted repository of related public datasets available to explore and analyze for free from the Google Cloud Console.

ALSO READ: “War Room” Set Up May Help Businesses Sail Through Coronavirus Crisis: Experts

These include the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, Global Health Data from the World Bank, and more. (IANS)