Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Consumer Watchdog wrong on medical records claim

Earlier today a group called Consumer Watchdog put out a press release alleging a "rumored lobbying effort" by Google "aimed at allowing the sale of electronic medical records."

This claim -- based on no evidence whatsoever -- is 100 percent false and unfounded.

Google does not sell health data. In fact, one of our most steadfast privacy principles is that we don't sell our users' personal data, whether it's stored in Google Health, Gmail, or in any of our products. And from a policy perspective, we oppose the sale of medical information in the health care industry.

We are supportive of strong privacy protections for medical records. Consumers own their electronic medical data and should have the right to easily access their information and control who gets to see it. We also believe in data portability, and we support open standards that enable consumers to control their data and take it wherever they'd like.

We have corresponded with Consumer Watchdog several times over the past few months to hear and address their concerns. It's unfortunate that they did not contact us before making today's unfounded statements, because we could have told them that their claims were patently false.


Dannomatic said...

I still think there is a huge concern here that corporation is holding this information. Now this is not specifically a Google Issue as many companies do hold private medical information for users.

The clarification on an erroneous press release is useful however I think the overriding concern of corporate handling of medical information and records needs to be discussed in great detail.

henweb said...

Is it just me or is there a lot of comment-spam getting through the filters on the Google blogs lately? I replied to the Christmas post over at the Developer one, and after a few small replies, I'm suddenly getting 10 notifications a day of a new (invariably Indian) SEO person commenting and linking to their site. And I can't even unsubscribe as the links don't work!

JMS said...


You owe Consumer Watchdog Consumer Watchdog an apology. It is now clear from public records that Google was lobbying Congress relating to online personal health records in connection with the economic stimulus act. Google said our claim was "100 percent false and unfounded." What else could Google have been seeking except to be excluded from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provisions on privacy and forbidding sale of records? Please tell us.

Read our letter to CEO Eric Schmidt.
Read Google's 1st quarter lobbying report.John M. Simpson
Consumer Advocate
Consumer Watchdog

Milton said...

Google's claim could be correct. They never claimed that they were not lobbying, only that they were not lobbying to sell our medical records. There seems to be a difference in verbage.

Google might very well be "lobbying Congress relating to online personal health records in connection with the economic stimulus act" but that does not mean that they intend to sell personal information.

But it is my understanding that they do comb through current systems such as Gmail for non-personal statistical data that they do sell to marketers.

There is a difference. As long as Google proves its claim to protect our privacy then we only need to decide if we will trade statistical data so that we can have the service for free.

It is good that the 'watchdogs' are watching on our behalf, but there seems to be a lot rhetoric out there.

What is important is who has the ownership rights to the data. Giving control to the government scares me more than Google does and the Obama plan might retain that control even if Google gets the contract.

Watchdogs should focus on ownership rights for the individual rather than more useless government laws like the ones that have failed to protect our private financial data from identity theft. With the ownership, we would have the right to claim damages when someone fails to protect our privacy.