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The secret scheme involves the transfer to Google of healthcare data held by Ascension, the second largest healthcare provider in the US. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesA whistleblower who works in Project Nightingale, the secret transfer of the personal medical data of up to 50 million Americans from one of the largest healthcare providers in the US to Google, has expressed anger to the Guardian that patients are being kept in the dark about the massive deal.The anonymous whistleblower has posted a video on the social media platform Daily Motion that contains a document dump of hundreds of images of confidential files relating to Project Nightingale. The secret scheme, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, involves the transfer to Google of healthcare data held by Ascension, the second-largest healthcare provider in the US. The data is being transferred with full personal details including name and medical history and can be accessed by Google staff. Unlike other similar efforts it has not been made anonymous though a process of removing personal information known as de-identification.The whistleblower introduces the video with the words: “I must speak out about the things that are going on behind the scenes.”The disclosed documents include highly confidential outlines of Project Nightingale, laying out the four stages or “pillars” of the secret project. By the time the transfer is completed next March, it will have passed the personal data of 50 million or more patients in 21 states to Google, with 10 million or so files already having moved across – with no warning having been given to patients or doctors.Among the documents are the notes of a private meeting held by Ascension operatives involved in Project Nightingale. In it, they raise serious concerns about the way patients’ personal health information will be used by Google to build new artificial intelligence and other tools.The notes say that one employee “expressed concerns of individuals downloading patient data – need to make sure everyone is trained to not be able to do that”.According to the whistleblower, the security fears raised at that meeting, including concerns that the transfer may be in breach of federal HIPAA rules on data privacy, have so far gone unanswered by Google.Project Nightingale is understood to be by far the largest data transfer of its kind so far in the healthcare field. It will cover the entire spread of Ascension, a Catholic network of 2,600 hospitals, clinics and other medical outlets.Google has entered into similar partnerships on a much smaller scale with clients such as the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine. But in that case all the data handed over to the search giant was encrypted, with keys being held only on the medical side.The deal between Google and Ascension to go ahead with the data transfer was formally signed on Monday, hours after the Wall Street Journal broke the story.The Guardian does not know the identity of the whistleblower. They are one of about 300 employees working on Project Nightingale, approximately half on the Google side and half with Ascension.In an interview with the Guardian, they explained the decision to go public. They cited widespread anxiety among Project Nightingale employees about the secrecy of the transfer, and about how Google was being given access to personal information of millions of patients.They had family members, they said, who have been through the health system and who were worried about even their body weight being shared with doctors. They would be alarmed to learn that their names, addresses, date of birth, medical conditions, lab records, hospitalization history and more might be included in the Project Nightingale data given to Google.“Most Americans would feel uncomfortable if they knew their data was being haphazardly transferred to Google without proper safeguards and security in place. This is a totally new way of doing things. Do you want your most personal information transferred to Google? I think a lot of people would say no.”The whistleblower also expressed concern that so much sensitive and potentially valuable data was being amassed by one big tech company. Google could go on to use its AI analytics to predict outcomes for individual patients, they posited.“In the future, such risks are only likely to grow. This is the last frontier of extremely sensitive data that needs to be protected,” they said.This is not the first time Google has ended up in hot water over its efforts to become the dominant player in healthcare data and analytics. In 2017, the transfer of 1.6m patient records at the Royal Free hospital in London to the company’s artificial intelligence arm DeepMind Health was found to have an “inappropriate legal basis” by the UK’s watchdog on data.The ambition of Google’s parent company Alphabet is to develop new AI tools that can help predict health patterns and improve treatment. Google recently announced plans to buy Fitbit for $2.1bn, aiming to enter the wearables market and invest in digital health.Google and Ascension have released statements in the wake of the disclosure of Project Nightingale, insisting it conforms with HIPAA and all federal health laws. They said that patient data was protected.Google Cloud told the Wall Street Journal that the aim was “ultimately improving outcomes, reducing costs, and saving lives”.In a statement, Ascension said: “All work related to Ascension’s engagement with Google is HIPAA compliant and underpinned by a robust data security and protection effort and adherence to Ascension’s strict requirements for data handling.”In the video, the whistleblower begs to disagree. In annotations that run over the leaked documents, they suggest that in future Google might be able to sell or share the data with third parties, or create patient profiles against which they can advertise healthcare products.“Patients haven’t been told how Ascension is using their data and have not consented to their data being transferred to the cloud or being used by Google. At the very least patients should be told and be able to opt in or opt out,” the whistleblower writes.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s Disney+ launch day, the arrival of a new video app that serves as Walt Disney Co.’s official entry into the streaming wars. But while the $7-a-month service may be a perfect choice for fans of “The Avengers” and “Star Wars,” or for parents of young children, Disney knows that’s not nearly enough variety for most people. Its efforts to address that shortcoming hint at what’s next for the industry: the revival of bundles. Buzz about Disney+ has been building for some weeks, as ads for the service cropped up on Twitter, billboards and TV. What’s gotten less attention is the crucial role Hulu plays in the company’s strategy. As part of Tuesday’s launch, consumers also now have the option of getting Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu (the on-demand version with ads) together for a rate of $13 a month, rather than paying for each app separately, which would total $18. Internally, Disney appears to be calling it the “super-bundle,” based on the image file name that was displayed on the sign-up page early Tuesday morning in place of a logo that wasn’t rendering (whoops):With the way content has been atomized — e.g., you can only stream Disney stuff on Disney+ going forward — no service on its own will provide all the shows and movies that a typical consumer wants. So as more viewers become completely reliant on streaming subscriptions, they’ll try to configure a set of apps that gets closest to imitating their ideal cable package. But that may get quite expensive. Say you want to watch “The Mandalorian” — the “Star Wars” series that’s headlining Disney+ — but you’re also a fan of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” hooked on HBO’s “Succession” and want lots of live sports, the likes of which Google’s broadcast-channel-heavy YouTube TV service provides. That would add up to $85 a month, in addition to the price of internet access — not quite the savings one might have envisioned from canceling cable. For the media companies, this is going to lead to lots of subscriber turnover month to month, with viewers pausing one subscription in favor of another just to binge on a new season of a hit series.The pickings on Disney+ are simply too narrow to be a cable substitute. This is where Hulu comes in, and to a lesser extent, ESPN+ (which is chiefly for fans of soccer and college sports). Hulu provides some of what’s missing from Disney’s superhero and family-friendly fare, with popular originals such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” recent episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and other licensed programming. While the super bundle is really just Disney+ and Hulu throwing in ESPN+ for free, it's strategically priced at the same rate as Netflix and provides insight into Disney's thinking.Disney won’t be alone in looking for ways to bundle services for customers. HBO Max, the streaming app that AT&T Inc. is introducing in May 2020, is effectively a $15 bundle of HBO, content from sister networks such as TBS, the “Friends” and “Big Bang Theory” franchises and Warner Bros. films (all for the same price as HBO on its own). Apple Channels, where users can sign up for third-party services such as CBS All Access and Starz using their Apple ID, at least allows users to consolidate their payments to a single company, but it doesn’t provide discounts for doing so. For cable giants Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications Inc., negotiating with programmers to structure discounted streaming-app bundles would be a natural evolution of their businesses.So much of the focus of the streaming wars has been on trying to pick the winner, or who will be the true Netflix killer. In fact, Netflix and Disney may control 60% of the U.S. streaming-video market by 2024, according to Geetha Ranganathan, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. Most people wouldn’t want to see the streaming marketplace go the way of the box office — where Disney’s Marvel movies and animated features are the overwhelming majority. (And Netflix isn’t exactly known for the highest-quality menu.) Bundles that include broader arrays of content from different sources offer a better shot at sustained competition, and that sounds awfully better than a world in which all Hollywood’s creative decisions rest in the hands of just a few giants.It’s time to bundle up.To contact the author of this story: Tara Lachapelle at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Beth Williams at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the business of entertainment and telecommunications, as well as broader deals. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - State attorneys general are meeting on Monday in Colorado to discuss their probe into whether Google's business practices break antitrust law, according to two sources knowledgeable about the meeting. The gathering was expected to be similar to one held in New York in October, where state and federal enforcers from the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission discussed their probe of Facebook. The probe of Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, is being led by the Texas attorney general's office.