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Why Google storing personal health records is a really bad joke -- the public should be worried...

Given that Google began offering online personal health records to the public yesterday, I thought it would be timely and helpful to repost in its entirety a previous post of mine from February 21, 2008 on why Google being in the business of storing personal health records is a really bad joke.

  • The post has over twenty useful and illuminating links, and many of them contain mainstream documents that underscore why the public should be extremely wary about entrusting Google with its most intimate, private and personal information.

Below is my 2-21-2008 post in its entirety -- if you missed it, or care about this issue, it's a online privacy must-read post: 

AP reports "Google to Store Patient's Health Records." Let's count the reasons why Google storing Americans' private health records is a really bad joke.

  • First, Privacy International, a leading privacy watchdog, ranked Google worst in its world survey of Internet Service Companies stating that Google has "an entrenched hostility to privacy." Juxtapose this "hostility to privacy" with the fact that most people consider their personal health records to be among their most intimate and private information.
  • Second, "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Reconcile this business purpose, philosophy and core competency to make most everything it touches digitally available to the world... with the 180 degree counter-purpose of e-health records which is to limit access to this infomation most extremely. 
    • Listen to Google's CEO in his own words about Google's ambitions to know everything about you:
      • "Asked how Google might look in five years’ time, Mr Schmidt said: “We are very early in the total information we have within Google. The algorithms will get better and we will get better at personalisation. “The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’ ”"

      • Knowing your personal health history in every detail would certainly help Google advise you on all matters of life wouldn't it?

  • Third, Google has a very checkered past when it comes to respect for people's privacy:

  • Fourth, Google's business model and history on these types of products raises serious privacy concerns, if Google is planning on storing private personal e-health records as a business for "free." 
  • Fifth, EPIC and other privacy groups have a suit pending with the Federal Trade Commission against Google for deceptive and unfair trade practices.
    •  Per the complaint, "A January 2006 poll of 1,000 Google users found that 89% of respondents think their search terms are kept private, and 77% believed that Google searches do not reveal their personal identities.31 These numbers indicate that Google’s practices violate the public’s expectation of privacy with respect to the collection and use of search history data."
  • Finally, Google is the corporate leader of the "Open" movement. They founded the Open Internet Coalition, support open access for spectrum and are big proponents of Open Source software.
    • The common thread behind the "Open" movement is that digital content on the web should not be owned, but should be shared and available to everyone to encourage collaboration, creativity and innovation. 
    • How can we trust that Google's deep philosophical belief in "openness", i.e. that anything private should be made public, won't sometime in the future be applied to e-health records?   

    Bottomline: Google's world-leading "hostility to privacy" and abysmal privacy record should give pause to even the most trusting souls...

    • Imagine "Google Procto-View."