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The Google Trap » Blog Archive » Google-Health and online patient files are dangerous Google-Health and online patient files are dangerous - Google, Health, Here, Internet, Schaar, Peter, “Health, Germany - The Google Trap

Google-Health and online patient files are dangerous

Why would Google engage itself in genetic research companies? Why does Google – currently only in Europe – offer the health-data site “Google-Health”, on which we can save our health and patient data. Why would a search engine engage itself in such a highly sensitive field? Which goals and intentions are behind this?

In the “Google Trap” I have already warned about Google Health. Here are a few excerpts from my book to make you even more curious:

“Considering how much time it took before the e-card was introduced in Austria, mainly because of the lengthy discussions about the type of data which should be permitted to be stored on the card, one can easily imagine that Google Health will cause numerous data security officers to focus on the safety of the system. Naturally every Internet user and Google-account owner can do what he pleases. On the other hand, every user should be aware of the fact that a US based company has access to personal and possibly sensitive health data, to which the US authorities might also have access. Imagine if the immigration authorities would have data on illnesses of all tourists traveling to the US. Apart from this, the data enriches the personal profile of every user with additional valuable information. Details on Internet users become more and more transparent. But what is even more important is: what would happen if employers were given access to this data?”

This week the German federal data protection expert Peter Schaar commented and warned about the dangers of online patient files, offered by foreign companies. “Health data is well protected by us. Its usage underlies strict guidelines. Any usage for other purposes is out of question. All offenders are liable to prosecution. Even criminal prosecutors are not allowed to confiscate patient data from medical doctors. However, this type of protection is not valid worldwide.

Corporations such as Google or Microsoft, with its “Health Vault” service, state that personal health information online may be accessible to doctors at any time, enabling them to see medical data in the case of an emergency. Google’s head of research, Peter Norvig, who I interviewed in Mountain View last summer, says that personal data only belongs to the patient – not to the hospital or doctor – and that he must decide where the data is saved and who may access it. But how can abuse be prevented, asks Schaar. And I agree – how can something like that be excluded from the realm of the possible? How can a link to other (sensitive) data be prevented? In Germany, for example, officials may not even sequester health data. But this is not a worldwide legislation, and from the YouTube-Viacom case we know that once data is in the US, control over it is lost and there is no chance to regain it.

Here is a little excerpt from the “Authorization Agreement” – once registered with Google Health, you must surrender to the corporation…

I hereby authorize Google to share the health information contained in my Google Health profile(s) in its entirety, to only those entities and individuals I designate, for the purpose of providing me with medical care and for the purpose of sharing my information with others that I choose.

I understand and agree that this authorization permits the disclosure of health or treatment information about me, to the entities and individuals I designate, that may also contain sensitive information relating to the following:


* Mental illness or any mental health condition

* Alcohol or substance abuse

* Sexually transmitted diseases

* Pregnancy

* Abortion or other family planning

* Genetic tests or genetic diseases

I understand and agree that this authorization also covers any record that was created by a doctor or other health care provider other than the doctor or health care provider who supplied the record to Google Health.