Thursday, January 24, 2008

What's next - Google Health??

Well, what won't Google dip its (extremely large) toe into next? My, it's Google Health. Download your medical records from hospitals and pharmacies, and just give it all to Google and they'll take real good care of it.

Some of us get the creepies just THINKING of how much Google knows about our private stuff. Now "privates" could be more literally true than before.

Mind you, there's a large and legitimate move afoot to create some sort of universal (but private) form of medical records storage, some universally accessible database so when there's an emergency, physicians can treat you accurately and rapidly. (Heck, accurate and up to date information would be useful in non-emergency situations, too. It's amazing how difficult that is to achieve. Many healthcare bloggers have talked about it.)

When I attended a dinner meeting at BI-Deaconess last fall, we saw a new gadget that a patient can wear, a little USB disk drive containing all their medical records. If you were to be away from your usual care when an emergency befell you, this could be immensely valuable. It's a good thing. And if you read my cancer journal last year, you know I love online access to my medical information.

At work I spend a lot of time dealing with Google tools, particularly their "search engine marketing" tools. They write some amazingly good software.

But it'll be a cold day in hell before I hand them my medical data. Sure, they say I'll "own" it. But who could possibly police what they do with it?

Of course, the site says:

Google Health privacy policy: Google respects the privacy of your health information.
But I'm not comfortable that there's integrity behind that. See, there's this motto "don't be evil" that's espoused by CEO Eric Schmidt when discussing issues of privacy when Google reaches into your online underpants and reports its findings to the world. And I'll never forget 2005, when Google (particularly Schmidt) showed its real stripes on that issue. wrote a fairly balanced article about Google and privacy under the uncritical title "Google Balances Privacy, Reach." To illustrate the topic, the writer Googled Eric Schmidt himself, for just a half hour, and published what she found - about him, his salary, his neighbors, his political donations, etc.

And what was the response of The Goog? Why, got its goolies chopped off by ... let me see... my, it was CEO Eric Schmidt! This CNN article relates how Schmidt banned CNet from getting any access to Google employees for a year. And when you're a tech news site, that's a major punishment.

GOOG's stock is doing great and I love their free tools, but there's no way in hell I'm giving them sensitive personal data, regardless of what their policy says. New motto for 2008: Don't Be Stupid.

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