A federal investigation is underway to probe Google’s Project Nightingale, an initiative aimed at collected health data from millions of users. According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, announced the inquiry earlier this week.
According to the office, the inquiry “will seek to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals’ medical records to ensure that [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA] protections were fully implemented,” office director Roger Severino said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.
Project Nightingale is a collaboration between Google and nonprofit Catholic health system Ascension. Together they will take users data and use it to provide healthcare workers with new analysis and insights.
Ascension will provide its health data into Google Cloud. According to a blog post from Google this week, the deal is a “business arrangement to help a provider with the latest technology, similar to the work we do with dozens of other healthcare providers.”
In its report, The Wall Street Journal, around 150 employees in Google can now access user health data. However, the company insists all data it collects fall in line with regulatory standards. Mountain View points out data gathered by Ascension:
“Cannot be used for any other purpose than for providing these services we’re offering under the agreement, and patient data cannot and will not be combined with any Google consumer data.”
In response to the report, Ascension released a statement:
“As the healthcare environment continues to rapidly evolve, we must transform to better meet the needs and expectations of those we serve as well as our own caregivers and healthcare providers. Doing that will require the programmatic integration of new care models delivered through the digital platforms, applications and services that are part of the everyday experience of those we serve,” said Eduardo Conrado, Executive Vice President, Strategy and Innovations, Ascension.