DSpecialized health care websites, according to information published by the London-based Financial Times, report Internet clickthroughs on medical symptoms and conditions to Internet giants such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook. As the newspaper reported in its Wednesday issue, the transfer of data was found to about keywords such as abortion or drugs in 79 out of 100 reviewed sites. This happens without the explicit consent of the Internet users and thus contradicts the legal situation in the UK.
The main beneficiary of the data transfer is, according to the newspaper report, the Google advertising offshoot, DoubleClick. Data would also be forwarded to other potential users such as Drugs.com and the British Heart Foundation. Technically, the transfer of data is thus accomplished by means of cookies or by locating computers during Internet use.
In America, a partnership between Google and the Ascension organization called for the US Department of Citizens' Rights in the Ministry of Health. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the Citizens Rights Agency wants to ensure that millions of citizens' health data are not misused. Ascension manages 2,600 healthcare facilities, including 150 hospitals and 50 retirement homes.
The criticized project "Nightingale" is named after the British nurse Florence Nightingale, who in the 1850s used statistics in the Crimean War to better care for patients. Google confirmed that patients' health records are stored in a cloud that can be centrally managed by Ascension. The patient data is currently not linked to Google's customer data – and will not be the case in the future, said cloud-led Google manager Tariq Shaukat.