A whistleblower has revealed that 50 million patient medical records have been acquired by Google. Have these patients given Google their consent? They have not.
In fact, almost all these patients were unaware that Google obtained their records, or even that this sensitive data was for sale. What’s even worse is that these records were not “de-identified” — meaning that personal details such as names, date of birth, and location, could still attached to each medical record.
So what does Google have to gain and everyone else have to lose?
In short, the stakes are high. Google has one other method to monetize that data. Remember, the value of personal data is worth more than the oil industry’s market cap.
Yet, if this data gets into the wrong hands, a whole lot can go wrong. Employers often don’t want to recruit workers with chronic illnesses because of the cost of insurance premiums. Not everyone wants to publicize their stint in rehab. Even though 1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness, this is still a plight with much social stigma.
Should 50 million people have the choice to opt out of Google collecting their medical records? Indeed, they should. Currently, they’re not given that choice.
Google apologists — and there are many — may clap back by saying, “What about the great potential good that may come from researching this data?”
I, of course, acknowledge that people often trade their privacy for the benefit of convenience. For example, providing Google with your name may allow them to build services tailored to your preferences. But the implication here is consent. Providing information to Google should be done voluntarily on a case by case basis — not wholesale.
Data collection should start and end with consent, especially when it comes to anything medical. It’s your body. Therefore, it should be your choice.