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Google Infringed on Healthcare Privacy of 50 Million Americans, Will It Come out Unscathed?

You can argue that privacy is practically nonexistent in the United States, but this argument falls short where the healthcare system is concerned.

There’s a mammoth of bottlenecks when it comes to accessing medical records, and not even medical professionals are spared. Thanks to 1996’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, doctors require permission to access a patient’s data.

Doctor’s require permission to access patient data

Anything contrary to this constitutes a crime, and the medic involved may find themselves facing the full force of the law. You now get how serious an issue this is, don’t you?

A Country in Shock

As such, you get why the entire country was in shock after details of Google’s partnership with Ascension were revealed. The latter company is a major health insurer in the U.S. and also doubles up as a hospital chain.

As part of the deal between these two, Ascension shared the medical records of 50 million Americans with the tech giant, all while these individuals were in the dark about it.

By virtue of the fact that the 50 million were clueless about the partnership, it goes without saying that none of them gave their consent for the sharing of their intimate data.

Citing a whistleblower, The Guardian reports that there are numerous concerns about the Google-Ascension deal, and that members of staff involved have already downloaded some patient records.

Ascension shared the medical records of 50 million Americans with Google

 

Within less than two days after news of the partnership broke, federal regulators concerned announced that they were starting an investigation into the Silicon Valley giant’s dealing with the health insurer.

Naturally, both companies have denied any allegations of wrongdoing, claiming that their partnership complied with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act fully. But don’t all major companies caught with their hand in the cookie jar always deny allegations leveled against them?

In fact, either company’s denial has done little to calm the American public down. Google has over the years created the reputation of being an advertiser who is ever data-hungry, while Ascension, as all health insurers do, would prefer cutting operational costs as much as possible.

As such, a partnership between these two would be mutually beneficial, and with the executives’ judgement clouded by ambition, they may find themselves stepping out of the confines of the law to strike a deal.

A partnership between these two would be mutually beneficial, but did they step outside the law to make it happen?

The Whistleblower Factor

Another factor that questions the credibility of both companies is the fact that it was a whistleblower who brought details of the partnership to the public domain.

For you to come out as a whistleblower, something terribly wrong must be going on at your workplace, one that constantly eats into your conscience. By going public, you risk losing your job – doing it, therefore, means that you consider being jobless to be a small price to pay for stopping whatever ills that may be happening behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, there’s the feeling that even if found guilty, Google may still come out of this unscathed. Compared to Facebook, the search engine company has faced relatively minimal backlash.

Despite these two companies engaging in similar malpractices, it is Facebook that receives all the heat, while Google’s reputation remains intact. Will this time be any different? Unfortunately, only time will tell!

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