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Technology

Google Secretly Accessed Americans' Health Data

The search giant vacuumed up the health history of roughly 50 million Americans.

Arnold Ahlert · Nov. 18, 2019

Would Americans willingly hand over their private medical records to Google?

Infuriatingly, it’s an irrelevant question. According to The Wall Street Journal, the search giant is engaged in a secret effort to secure and analyze the personal health data of 50 million Americans in 21 states. The initiative, known as “Project Nightingale,” was undertaken in partnership with Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S. Columnist Robert Copeland reveals, “The data involved in Project Nightingale pertains to lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.”

More infuriating? “Neither patients nor doctors have been notified,” Copeland adds.

Americans are finding out about this outrage courtesy of an anonymous whistleblower, who posted a video on the Daily Motion social-media platform. It contained a document dump of hundreds of images of confidential files relating to Project Nightingale.

The video has since been removed due to what Daily Motion states is “a breach of the Terms of Use.”

According to The Guardian, the whistleblower introduced the video by saying, “I must speak out about the things that are going on behind the scenes.” The video explained there were four “pillars” in Project Nightingale, and that by the time the file transfer is completed next March, those 50 million Americans’ health data will be under Google’s control — whether they like it or not.

Privacy concerns? In a statement, Ascension asserted that all of its Google-related efforts are “HIPAA compliant and underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascension’s strict requirements for data handling.”

Google stated its work with Ascension “adheres to industry-wide regulations (including HIPAA) regarding patient data, and come with strict guidance on data privacy, security and usage.” Google also insists the data obtained from Ascension “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.”

Such assertions ring exceedingly hollow from a company whose founders and chief executives were caught on tape bemoaning the results of the 2016 election, and outlining their efforts to thwart Trump’s agenda, and that of the worldwide populist movement.

A movement utterly anathema to Google’s globalist ambitions.

Documents obtained by Project Veritas from Google insider Zachary Vorhies — who received a “wellness check” from San Francisco police following a police-confirmed “mental health call” from Google — reveal the search giant had a file called “news black list site for google now.” Vorhies insisted it was a “black list” of news sites restricting them from appearing on news feeds for any Android Google product. If that’s the case, then Google executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai, have been lying to Congress.

If they’d lie to Congress — with no consequences to date — why should lying to the American public be problematic? And if they’re not lying, why was the video removed from Daily Motion?

“Google desires to use the data, mine it and write algorithms based on patient data,” the whistleblower adds. “In addition, Google seeks to use the data to build their own products which can be sold to third parties.”

It’s not the first time. Google is currently engaged in data-mining the personal information of millions of children, courtesy of its “G Suite for Education” accounts, and its Chromebooks, used in classrooms nationwide.

And yet again, much of it is occurring without parental knowledge or consent.

Furthermore, Google’s previous forays into the medical field are also problematic. A deal between United Kingdom hospitals and the search giant’s artificial-intelligence subsidiary, DeepMind, “failed to comply with data protection law,” according to a ruling by UK’s data watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). In addition, a class-action lawsuit filed last June contends that a 2017 deal between Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center was marred by Google’s failure to “anonymize” patient records. The suit also asserts that the UC Medial Center “did not notify its patients, let alone obtain their express consent, before turning over their confidential medical records to Google for its own commercial gain,” The Verge reports.

Google’s latest machinations have precipitated an investigation by Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services, which “will seek to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals’ medical records to ensure that HIPAA protections were fully implemented,” office director Roger Severino said in a statement.

In the meantime, Google has purchased Fitbit Inc. for $2.1 billion. “Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit would also give the company deep insights into Americans’ most sensitive information — such as their health and location data — threatening to further entrench its market power online,” warns Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI).

Rep. Josh Hawley (R-MO) asks a telling question: “Why should Google be permitted to acquire even more companies while they’re under DOJ antitrust investigation?”

Why indeed? At what point does a company trying to insinuate itself into virtually every aspect of Americans’ lives get the kind of scrutiny it so richly deserves?

“This is a totally new way of doing things, the whistleblower states. "Do you want your most personal information transferred to Google? I think a lot of people would say no.”

It’s not a “totally new way of doing things.” Totalitarian regimes throughout history have always sought to obliterate privacy for the “greater good” of mankind.

Moreover, it’s getting easier to do. At least two generations of Americans have grown up in a wholly digitized world where privacy takes a back seat to exhibitionism, epitomized — and wholly encouraged — by social-media giants whose owners also seek to impose their “enlightened” worldview on the “benighted” masses.

“If Google goes untrammeled here, the near future includes anonymous Silicon Valley junior employees with no medical license making life-or-death decisions,” warns columnist Maureen Callahan. “How this is not an issue brought up in every presidential debate is beyond me.”

It’s not the only issue that should be brought up. In what has become a “cancel culture” with no apparent limit regarding how far back in time one’s social-media history can be accessed for the purpose of character assassination, perhaps it’s time to limit social media usage to those 18 year of age and over. Congress should also make all personal data (save police files) “copyrightable,” giving individuals some control of — as well as remuneration for — whatever data is used for financial gain.

And most especially, data-mining tech behemoths should be tossed out of America’s classrooms.

Under the auspices of convenience, Americans have either tolerated or embraced an emerging surveillance society that makes George Orwell’s 1984 look benign by comparison. If we continue down this road, privacy, individualism, and Liberty will be completely eliminated, and everyone will be as exploitable — and coercible — as our would-be tech masters decide to make us.

Until it was shamed into abandoning it, Google’s “Project Dragonfly” was about creating a censoring search engine for Communist China — meaning they’ve already developed a roadmap for the imposition of totalitarianism.

It’s time for some government-mandated “detours.”

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