Google ID – to come up with some very explicit information on individual activities. A lesser problem is the fact is that Google and Ascension have done this deal – where the data has not been made anonymous by removing personal information – without letting either doctors or patients know about it. But the huge unsettling issue is the awareness that this is a large step in surveillance capitalism, with our data — that private information on our aches and pains — fueling yet another round of digital intrusions into our lives.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) is really the only US-wide rule for protecting private data collection. Health data is protected at a much higher level than that collected by a typical smartphone app — even for Californians covered by the new California Consumer Privacy Act. “If the company violated HIPAA, it’ll be a legal bloodbath,” tweeted security reporter Violet Blue. Both Ascension and Google have since scrambled to say that their agreement was securely handling patient data under current privacy and security standards including HIPPA.
As the technology leader, Google is running around with a huge target on its back. Even before this latest round of health news broke, they were under investigation from 50 American states for “potential monopolistic behavior” in relationship to competitors. Now, in just a week, they have gotten the top Democrat on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee pushing for a pause on the Fitbit acquisition and a separate federal inquiry underway over the Google partnership with Ascension. In addition, there is also that Department of Justice inquiry. It’s a question: Is Google too big for its own health – or yours?