INTERNET GIANT Google's shady 'Project Nightingale' initiative has already come under the critical eye of US federal regulators.
As per the Wall Street Journal, which first revealed that Google was stealthily amassing detailed health data on millions of Americans, regulators have been quick to announce that they'll be probing the company's since-confirmed partnership with Ascension, the second-largest health system in the US.
The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services, which it "enforces federal civil rights laws, conscience and religious freedom laws, has confirmed it "will seek to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals' medical records to ensure that HIPAA protections were fully implemented," according to the WSJ's report.
Through its partnership with Ascension, which was quickly confirmed after the WSJ published its exposé, Google has access to "lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories" which "amounts to a complete health history, complete with patient names and dates of birth."
As per the initial report, this data was quietly collected from "tens of millions" of US citizens across 21 states without patients or doctors having first been informed. As many as 150 Google staffers are said to have had access to the data.
Google on Tuesday moved quickly to quash privacy confirms, stating the deal is compliant with HIPAA, the federal law regulating the security and privacy of certain medical information.
"All of Google's work with Ascension adheres to industry-wide regulations (including HIPAA) regarding patient data, and come with strict guidance on data privacy, security and usage," wrote president of Google Cloud's industry products and solutions, Tariq Shaukat, in a blog post.
"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."
Ascension said in a statement the agreement would also explore artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to help improve clinical effectiveness, as well as patient safety. µ
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