Google has reportedly secretly gathered millions of patient records across 21 states on behalf of a health care provider, in an effort dubbed “Project Nightingale,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Neither the provider’s doctors nor patients were made aware of the effort, according to the report.
The Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland wrote that the data amassed in the program includes “lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, complete with patient names and dates of birth,” and that as many as 150 Google employees may have had access to the data.
The New York Times corroborated much of the report later in the day, writing that “dozens of Google employees” may have access to sensitive patient data, and that there are concerns that some Google employees may have downloaded some of that data.
Google is testing the service that would use its search and artificial intelligence technology to analyze patient records for Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S., according to documents about the efforts reviewed by Forbes. Called “‘Nightingale,” the Google-Ascension project indicates that Google’s push into health analysis is farther along than previously believed, even as the company has faced a growing backlash over health-related privacy concerns.
Ascension said in a statement that all its work with the search engine company complies with privacy law and is “underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort, which Google echoed in its own blog post later Monday, including that “patient data cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data. ” The Wall Street Journal first published details of the Ascension partnership earlier on Monday.