Google pledged this Tuesday to not use the medical data of millions of patients in the United States for commercial purposes, after the controversy unleashed on Monday upon learning that the company has access to that information through its agreement with a network of hospitals.
"To be clear: under this agreement, medical data cannot be used for any other purpose than to provide these services we offer under the agreement, and patient data cannot be combined with any Google information about consumers ", Google Cloud president Tariq Shaukat said.
Google Cloud is the platform of cloud services Google, the third largest in the world behind Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, and provides companies with not only a place to "store" their gigantic amounts of data, but also tools based on artificial intelligence to interpret and offer solutions according to the available information.
Thus, as they say from the company, the objective is twofold: on the one hand, download to the hospitals the tasks of management and storage of this data and, on the other, improve the service they provide by making available analysis techniques of data that save doctors time and offer suggestions for possible treatments.
The controversy broke out on Monday when the newspaper The Wall Street Journal published that, through the existing agreement between Google Cloud and the Ascension hospital network, the largest Catholic firm of that type in the US, the technology company had collected without permission and had access to the medical data of tens of millions of people.
The agreement was signed last year, although the exchange of data between Google and Ascension – an operation that in the Mountain View firm (California, USA) has been baptized as Project "Nightingale" (nightingale, in Spanish) – accelerated this summer.
Full histories with names
Among the data collected by Google are medical diagnoses, laboratory test results and hospitalization records, among other reports, which is equivalent to a complete medical history that includes the names of the patients and the dates of birth.
One of the elements that has generated more controversy since the publication of this information on Monday is not that Google has access to the data as a provider of this service (from the company they assure that everything is perfectly legal), but the fact that Neither patients nor doctors are informed of this fact.
"These organizations, like Ascension, use Google to securely manage their patients' data, under strict privacy and security standards. They are the guardians of the data, and we provide them with the services they ask for, "Google defended against criticism.
Google’s commitment to strengthen ties with the medical industry is part of Silicon Valley’s growing appetite for analyzing data related to people's health, a way of business They are also exploring other technology giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.