Privacy laws need updating after Google deal with HCA Healthcare, medical ethics professor says

Privacy laws in the U.S. need to be updated, especially after Google struck a deal with a major hospital chain, medical ethics expert Arthur Kaplan said Wednesday.

“Now we’ve got electronic medical records, huge volumes of data, and this is like asking a navigation system from a World War I airplane to navigate us up to the space shuttle,” Kaplan, a professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, told “The News with Shepard Smith.” “We’ve got to update our privacy protection and our informed consent requirements.”

On Wednesday, Google’s cloud unit and hospital chain HCA Healthcare announced a deal that — according to The Wall Street Journal — gives Google access to patient records. The tech giant said it will use that to make algorithms to monitor patients and help doctors make better decisions. 

HCA chief medical officer Jonathan Perlin told the Journal that the company will remove all identifying information before giving the data to Google, so they won’t know who you are. HCA collects data from 32 million patient visits every year and has more than 2,000 sites in 20 states.

Google sent a statement via email to CNBC: “This is a deal between HCA and Google Cloud, and follows Google Cloud’s Enterprise Privacy Commitments. We do not process customer data to create ads profiles or improve Google Ads products. We do not sell customer data or service data to third parties.”

But Kaplan told host Shepard Smith that he was concerned that a company like Google, which does a lot of commercial advertising, could correlate the information coming out of the healthcare system and potentially sell it. 

“Maybe they don’t have your name, but they sure enough can figure out what sub-group, sub-population might do best by getting advertised to you,” Kaplan said.  

Neither Google nor HCA responded to CNBC’s request for comment.

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