Service requires users to sign in with personal accounts, but Google promises limits to sharing data
Last week, President Donald Trump touted Google’s participation in the pandemic response. By Monday, the site it developed through Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Alphabet, which is Google’s parent company, began operating for people in parts of California.
Critics have questioned the data collection policies of the Verily site, including the need to use a Google account to sign into the program. Data privacy advocates like Ana Milicevic, principal and co-founder of Sparrow Advisors, a digital consulting firm, said the coronavirus site could collect sensitive personal information that could later be used in ways participants never intended.
“The nature of digital data is such that it lingers forever,” Milicevic says during a phone interview on Monday. “Once this crisis is inevitably over, that data survives someplace.”
Google was not immediately available to comment on its consumer privacy protections.
Google is working with U.S. public health officials to design web-based tools that can help with the coronavirus pandemic. The Verily site guides people through a questionnaire that tells them whether they are eligible for testing and where to get tested. The site has been limited, so far, and serves just the Bay Area in California.
“Verily personnel who need to contact you, such as staff to schedule your testing, will have access to direct identification information (your name, street address, phone number, and email),” Verily says on its website. “The information you provide may also be shared with the health care professionals who collect your specimen, the clinical laboratory that processes your specimen, the California Department of Public Health, and potentially other federal, state, and local health authorities, and other entities that assist with the testing program.”
This article originally appeared in AdAge.