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'When Will Someone Go to Jail?': New Report Shows Google Secretly Storing Health Data of Millions of Americans

According to The Wall Street Journal, neither patients nor doctors have been notified of the data collection and storage.

Google obtained the health data of millions of Americans, a new report claims.

Google obtained the health data of millions of Americans, a new report claims. (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

A "bombshell" new report from The Wall Street Journal describes a secret project from Google and healthcare giant Ascension to store data on millions of Americans, a move that critics of the tech conglomerate decried as another example of overreach.

"When will someone go to jail?" wondered mathematician and musician David C. Lowery. "That would stop this shit real fast."

According to the Journal, Google and Ascension made the decision last year to collect the data across 21 states in an initiative named "Project Nightingale." 

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Google in this case is using the data, in part, to design new software, underpinned by advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, that zeroes in on individual patients to suggest changes to their care. Staffers across Alphabet Inc., Google's parent, have access to the patient information, documents show, including some employees of Google Brain, a research science division credited with some of the company's biggest breakthroughs.

The Journal reported that Nightingale's scope "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."

Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents.

The project is legal under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, though some staffers at Ascension are reportedly concerned over the ethics of the collection.

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