Viewpoint: Google, HCA deal sparks need for update in privacy laws

Google Cloud and HCA Healthcare's new collaboration to build health data algorithms has ignited the need for updates to U.S. privacy laws, New York University medical ethics expert Arthur Caplan, PhD, told CNBC

"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," said Dr. Caplan, founding head of the medical ethics division at New York City-based NYU School of Medicine. "We've got to update our privacy protection and our informed consent requirements." 

Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA and Google announced the new partnership May 26; under the deal, HCA will use Google Cloud's healthcare data offerings and build a new data platform that will improve workflows for its clinicians and nonclinical staff. HCA patient records would be stripped of identifying information before being shared with Google's data scientists, and the health system said it will have control over access to the data, according to The Wall Street Journal

In an emailed statement to CNBC, Google said the deal follows its enterprise privacy commitments and that the company does not "process customer data to create ads profiles or improve Google Ads products." Google also added that it does not sell customer data or service data to third parties. 

Companies like Google that do a lot of commercial advertising could correlate the information coming out of the health system and potentially sell it, Dr. Caplan said. 

"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," he said. 

Google and HCA did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.

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