Google’s ‘Project Nigtingale’ triggers federal inquiry in US


Google’s partnership with US healthcare organisation Ascension over health data collection of millions of Americans through its “Project Nightingale” has triggered a federal probe, the media reported on Wednesday.

The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services in the US is launching an inquiry into “Project Nightingale”, reports CNN Business.

The Office for Civil Rights “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 was quoted as saying.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that “Google is engaged with one of the US’s largest health-care systems on a project to collect and crunch the detailed personal-health information of millions of people across 21 states” and at least 150 Google staffers may have access to the data.

The St. Louis-based healthcare organisation Ascension is allegedly sharing details such as lab results, diagnoses and hospitalization records — as well as health histories complete with patient names and dates of birth — with the tech giant.

As part of “Project Nightingale”, Ascension uploaded patient data to Google’s Cloud servers.

Meanwhile, in a blog post, Google tried to clarify its partnership with Ascension.

“All of Google’s work with Ascension adheres to industry-wide regulations regarding patient data, and come with strict guidance on data privacy, security and usage,” said Tariq Shaukat, President, Industry Products and Solutions, Google Cloud.

Ascension also issued a statement, saying it is working with Google to optimize the health and wellness of individuals and communities, and deliver a comprehensive portfolio of digital capabilities that enhance the experience of Ascension consumers, patients and clinical providers across the continuum of care.

According to Google, some of the solutions it is working on with Ascension are not yet in active clinical deployment, but rather are in early testing.