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Google's Health Info Gathering

Through a partnership with the healthcare system Ascension, Google has collected health data on millions of Americans, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Google's Project Nightingale has collected a swathe of medical information, ranging from lab results to diagnoses and from names to dates of birth from Ascension patients, the Journal says, noting that Ascension encompasses about 2,600 hospitals, doctors' offices, and other facilities. It says that through Project Nightingale, Google and Ascension say they aim, respectively, to develop new software tools and improve patient care by mining the data.

As the Journal reports, some Ascension employees have questioned both the ethics of sharing such data and how that sharing is being done technology-wise. Privacy experts tell the Journal that this sharing seems to be allowed by federal law, as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 lets hospitals share data with their partners without informing patients if it is to improve this healthcare mission.

Google has also partnered with the Mayo Clinic to store its genetic, medical, and financial records, the Journal notes.