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Google’s foray into health care invites privacy questions

November 13, 2008 by  

Google raises privacy concerns once againGoogle is making news with its highly-touted flu tracking project, but when it comes to privacy issues, this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The new Google Flu Trends function keeps track of nationwide searches involving the flu, with the goal of providing a quick snapshot of which parts of the country are experiencing outbreaks.

On the Flu Trends website, the search engine notes that an early version of this program was used last winter, and was able to provide flu estimates up to two weeks faster than existing Center for Disease Control and Prevention methods.

"In theory at least, this idea can be used for any disease and any health problem," said Dr. Joseph Bresee of the CDC.

Google’s flu project does not collect individual user data. However, privacy advocates may be far more concerned by this week’s report of a test program in Arizona where patients will be asked to store their medical records on Google and other websites. The goal of this program is to make it easier for patients to provide their records during emergency room visits or when switching doctors.

However, the Arizona Republic points out that the federal HIPAA medical privacy law only applies to actual health care providers, not third parties like Google.

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  • Bob Livingston

    The amount of data that Google collects is just plain scary.  It’s just a little bit at a time… piece by piece until they have massive dosiers on a big percentage of the population of the world.  Google brings new meaning to ‘big brother.’

  • Mary

    Really, when will this invasion of privacy end? What will they track next, your children? Perhaps we really are getting to a police state and we should be worried. After all, Hitler used sickness and vulnerability to make his case.

  • Ron Baker

    I think GOOGLE itself is the pandemic and it’s invading every aspect of our culture. As such, it is what needs to be monitored and contained if not outright sequestered. It puts me in mind of the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and its various remakes. The difference is the “pod(s)” in this case are electronic, but like in the movies, they have been taking over humanity while we have been asleep. 

  • mnjrupp

    We are living at a time in history where information is available at a click of a button. I think having information available is great and can keep a society in check, I think there is a need for another search engine competitor to keep Google in check.
    As a programmer, I would like to take that challenge. Anyone want to join me?

  • Brenda

    Don’t necessarily think that one should blame Google. Reread the way The HIPAA LAW. Seems People need to contact there Congressmen To tell them to rewrite Privacy Laws, that would protect Individual Rights.


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