Another health project from Google faces privacy problems: the company almost released more than 100,000 X-ray images of humans, but canceled the publication because part of the files contained information that could identify patients. The news comes in the same week that Google became the target of an investigation for collecting unauthorized medical data.
The incident did not become public, but the Washington Post talked to a person close to the case. According to the source, Google received a call from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) two days before the launch of the X-ray project, scheduled for mid-2017. The US government research center conglomerate warned that some files contained personal information , which would cause legal and privacy issues.
Despite having unpublished the X-ray files, Google is under pressure for allegedly not being concerned about data protection. According to the newspaper, none of the Google researchers had to sign a contract that covered the privacy of patient information. In addition, Google would have hurried to announce the project without first checking whether the data was secure.
In a statement, Google says it has already deleted all images from the company’s internal systems and has not sought further work with NIH, which had provided the X-rays. The company says it “takes great care to protect patient data and ensure that personal information remains private and secure ”. According to Google, the project did not violate any federal privacy law.
Google is also facing an investigation due to Project Nightingale, which aims to create an advanced digital medical record. About 150 employees would have access to patient names, dates of birth, test results, hospital records and diagnostic history since the end of 2018. The data came from Ascension, which accounts for one of the largest health systems in the States United, but patients were not told about Google’s access to their medical records.