In July, Google (Google) announced a collaboration agreement with a network of hospitals and clinics called Ascension, which provides services to millions of residents in the United States. The announcement did not attract much attention in its source, but now – possibly following the acquisition of Fitbit – it is suddenly raising the following questions in the media articles, including the popular Wall Street Journal website .
The main concern concerns the possibility that personal and sensitive information from medical files, including names, birth dates, lab results and physician visits and complete medical history, will be incorporated into the Google databases used to tailor advertisements to users. In addition, the information may be exposed to Google employees themselves, as well as to third parties who may gain access to it in the event that it is not properly secured.
Google, for its part, insists that the purpose of its agreement with the hospital network is to provide clinicians with advanced, artificial intelligence tools for locating inpatient information and making more accurate medical recommendations. The company claims that the information will not in any way be used for advertising purposes, and that its sole purpose is to assist the inpatient health, and ultimately to offer the artificial intelligence tools for additional health services.
Of course, now the main question is whether regulatory bodies in the United States will choose to rely on Google’s statements or prohibit it from participating in the development of tools related to sensitive medical information. Such a decision may also jeopardize the purchase of Fitbit, which also holds personal information about its users collected through the fitness tracks and other products made from it.