Project ‘Nightingale’: Google’s Latest Search for Your Information

On any given day, Google receives over 63,000 searches per second. This causes the number of queries in a year to reach the trillions. For only being a search engine, Google finds a way to be an integral part of people’s routines.  From previous data, it is assumed that every person will seek several search queries in a day. In a technologically advanced society, humans are experiencing issues with their agency against monopoly companies. Because Google is a household name, its power extends greatly over the public. Owning nearly 200 companies and holding 90.4% of the worldwide search engine market share, Google’s ability to filter and control information is very possible and likely practiced. 

Courtesy: Arthur Osipyan on Unsplash

With the code name “Nightingale,” one of Google’s largest projects has flown under the radar despite starting late last year. Cooperating with Ascension, a St. Louis based company that is the United States’ second-largest health care system, Google has a mission to collect health care information from patients. They believe practices like this will allow them to create new software built from advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning. This software will then be able to accurately suggest to patients changes that can be made to improve their health. 

Earlier this month, Google posted a statement on their blog site as follows:

“Today, we’re proud to announce more details on our partnership with Ascension, one of the nation’s leading non-profit health systems, to support them with technology that helps them to deliver better care to patients across the United States.” 

Then they began to delve into questions regarding the concerns people have about this new business acquisition. Their three main points for justifying this venture are:

1. Wanting to move the infrastructure of the company to the cloud. 

2. Using Google’s suite productivity tools to improve system performances.

3. Enabling nurses and doctors to utilize the tools to improve their quality of care.

Google defends its project by assuring the public that all industry-wide regulations are being met. Google has a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Ascension that governs access to Protected Healthcare Information (PHI). This multi-billion-dollar corporation assures us that they are playing fairly by the guidelines. However, the Health and Human services federal agency insists that they would like to learn more about this massive collection of data with respect to patient’s rights to privacy. This investigation led by a federal regulator will help further discern the actions and consequences involved with the transferring of personal data. 

Just this past summer, a former patient at UChicago Medicine sued the company for its efforts to share thousands of medical records with Google. Both UChicago and Google were accused of not sufficiently de-identifying patient information. These companies affirm and maintain that they followed regulations.

Courtesy: Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

The public is becoming increasingly more aware that their personal information has the potential to not be all that private anymore. With business ventures like Google’s occurring behind the scenes, it is more difficult to keep our digital privacy intact and not have it become just another piece of information floating in the Internet algorithm. 

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