Google's Verily coronavirus website collects patient data, may share with vendors

Verily's coronavirus website may share users personally identifiable information with third party vendors, according to its privacy policy. 

Google’s sister company Verily launched Project Baseline on March 15. The website is designed to direct patients who believe they may have COVID-19 to the appropriate care.

However, the website has already had its struggles. Digital Trends originailly reported on the privacy practices of Project Baseline. 

In Project Baseline’s privacy policy, the website says personally identifiable information “collected may be used for a variety of purposes, including responding to your requests for information, commercial product research and development, study eligibility screening, creation of your Baseline Profile and engagement with enrolled patients throughout the study period.”

It goes on to say that personal information may be shared with “business partners or services providers we use to perform the various activities contemplated in the study.” 

Along with concerns about how Google is using the information, Google has had to postpone its national rollout until “later this week,” officials told The Hill on March 17.

Beyond working on the website, Google is also in talks with the government to use its technology to monitor whether people are keeping a safe distance from one another, according to The Washington Post.

In an email statement to Becker's Hospital Review, a Verily spokesperson said the following: 

"Google is not collecting or retaining user information. Verily is collecting the information needed to fulfill the purposes of the Baseline COVID-19 testing program, and uses Google infrastructure to safely store and protect health information. All the data provided by Baseline users for screening is stored separately and not linked to any of Google’s products and services. Data will not be used for advertising purposes.

"The information we are collecting for this program includes basic contact and scheduling information, and will be used for limited purposes to support testing of individuals. Verily personnel and volunteers who need to contact individuals regarding testing, will have access to such data only for these purposes. Verily will also have access to signed COVID-19 authorization forms, and screener questionnaire answers, and may receive test results from the physical testing site, health care professionals, and/or clinical laboratories, in order to communicate test results back to individuals.

"The information individuals choose to provide during the screening process or testing process may also be shared with the healthcare professionals at the specimen collection sites, the clinical laboratory that processes specimens (e.g. Quest and others), the California Department of Public Health, and potentially other federal, state, and local health authorities, as requested or mandated for public health purposes.

"The Verily Baseline platform uses software tools such as Salesforce to help our customer service team contact individuals with email or calls as appropriate. For example, this helps us schedule individuals for appointments at testing sites. In all cases, third-party access to data is strictly limited and governed by strong contracting provisions and technical security measures to prevent unauthorized access or use.

"We will retain an individual’s information as long as necessary to fulfill the purposes of the Baseline COVID-19 testing program or until applicable emergency declarations related to COVID-19 expire or are otherwise terminated, whichever is later. Thereafter, we will delete information collected through the Baseline Covid-19 Program, unless an individual separately authorizes further retention and use of information."

Editor's note: This story was udpated to include a statment from Verily. 

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