Feeds

Google beefs health record lobby

What ye worry?

High performance access to file storage

Why is Google lobbying the US Congress over the webification of the nation's health records? It won't say. But lobbying it is.

In its first quarter Congressional lobbying report (PDF), Google has said it lobbied both the House and Senate on "online health-related issues [and] issues related to online personal health records," and at least some of this involved the federal stimulus act. Meanwhile, two other third-party Washington outfits said in their own reports that Google is paying them for similar lobbying.

Naturally, this has gotten under the skin of the consumer watchdog known only as Consumer Watchdog. In late January, Los Angeles, California-based not-for-profit issued a press release urging Google to cease a "rumored lobbying effort aimed at allowing the sale of electronic medical records" via President Obama's economic stimulus bill.

Google - which launched its own online health records operation almost a year ago - vehemently denied the claims, calling them "100 per cent false." And with typical Googly righteousness, the web giant cum world power attempted to cut the Watchdog's funding.

But in light of that lobbying report, the Watchdog feels a certain sense of vindication. "They said that our release was 100 per cent false and unfounded," the Watchdog's John Simpson tells The Reg. "Clearly, it wasn't."

Google continues to deny that it ever advocated the sale of online medical records - and we're inclined to believe the company. Convincing the world it should be allowed to sell their medical records is beyond even Google's preternatural gift for PR. But you have to wonder what is going on behind those closed Washington doors. Google spent $880,000 on Washington lobbying during the quarter.

The way Google tells it, the company has been lobbying on the health issues because the government asked it to. "Since launching Google Health in the spring of 2008, we have occasionally received requests from Congressional staff to learn more about Google's views on health information technology policy," according to a portion of a canned statement the company tossed our way. "We received several such requests during discussions over the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009."

Consumer Watchdog is convinced that Google is lobbying for exclusion from the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which provides privacy protections for America's personal health records. As it stands, the laws that govern what doctors can do with a patient's medical records do not apply to the Google Chocolate Factory. If you upload your health records to Google, you have to assume the company will always do the right thing.

"The bottom line is: You have to put your trust in Google," John Halamka, chief information officer of the Harvard Medical School, told us at the launch of Google Health almost a year ago.

And naturally, Google insists that such trust is warranted. "We have in place strict data security policies and measures, and ensure that users control access to their information. Moreover, we have repeatedly made clear that Google does not sell and opposes the sale of personal health care information," that Google statement reads.

So, no law governs Google Health. But Google is lobbying Congress on behalf of Google Health. One can only assume that the company is hoping it can mold any future law to its liking. But what exactly is Google's concern?

In launching Google Health, the company said it had no intentions of serving ads against online health records. And it said that all the proper privacy and security measures are in place. What, then, is it interested in doing that future law might prevent?

Google spins Google Health as some sort of philanthropic venture that sprang from its deep-seated need to make the world a better place to live in. But this is a public company. And there's a reason it's lobbying. ®

Correction: This story has been corrected to show that Google's lobbying bill totaled $880,000 during the quarter.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.