Startling new accusations about user privacy surfaced this week from within Google. An anonymous source inside Google released evidence that described how the company has partnered with a major hospital provider, Ascension, to upload private medical records of 50 million patients to Google’s cloud. The data gathering is part of a project called “Nightingale” which would use AI and machine learning to analyze and compare health data for various initiatives. The whistleblower stated their reasons for releasing the confidential information in an anonymous op-ed in the Guardian. The medical data was not stripped of identifying markers when transferred to Google which could possibly be a violation of Federal Patient Privacy Laws known as HIPPA. These revelations come in the wake of increased scrutiny of large tech companies in both the popular mind and in the House of Representatives — who opened an antitrust probe in to several big tech companies, including Google, this summer. CBS News discusses the privacy issues at stake in an interview with Wired Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Nick Thomson. The Financial Times also ran a story detailing other ways in which private medical data is shared by tech companies.
As details emerge about Project Nightingale, they will undoubtedly add fuel to the fire of calls from Democrats for new and extensive regulation of the tech sector. All the major Democratic candidates have come out in favor of new regulation of big tech, especially Elizabeth Warren who has stated unequivocally that big tech should be brought to heel. Business Insider catalogues the stance of each candidate on regulating big tech. The left sees the increasing accumulation of influence in tech companies as a threat to the common citizen who is being used by these companies, increasingly without their knowledge, as the race to conquer the new world of big data reaches its climax.
Conservatives seems to be somewhat divided on the issue of anti-trust and other regulation of big tech companies. Several on the right feel that big tech generally leans politically to the left and have been accused by many of silencing conservative voices on their platforms causing some to call for regulation for fairness of representation. At the same time, the history of supporting economic freedom has not altogether been lost in the republican party leading some to question whether governments are able to do what is promised — protect consumers — without infringing on others liberty. One Libertarian commentator lays out a case against anti-trust regulations of tech, saying that the “Antitrust Crusade is an Economic and Civil Liberties Nightmare.”