January 28, 2009 By Wayne Hanson
Consumer Watchdog charged in a letter to Congress that Google was engaged in a "rumored lobbying effort" to allow the sale of electronic medical records in the current version of the economic stimulus legislation. Consumer Watchdog called on Congress to remove loopholes in the ban on the sale of medical records and include other privacy protections absent from the current bill such as giving patients the right to an audit detailing who had accessed their medical records and how the records were used.
The consumer group said Google is pushing for the provisions so it may sell patient medical information to its advertising clients on the the new Google Health database.
A Google representative, contacted by Government Technology, said Google "categorically denied" the allegations, and found it "very unfortunate that Consumer Watchdog is spreading rumors without verifying it." The representative referred GT to a Google Policy Blog, which stated: "This claim -- based on no evidence whatsoever -- is 100 percent false and unfounded. Google does not sell health data. In fact, one of our most steadfast privacy principles is that we don't sell our users' personal data, whether it's stored in Google Health, Gmail, or in any of our products. And from a policy perspective, we oppose the sale of medical information in the health care industry. We are supportive of strong privacy protections for medical records. Consumers own their electronic medical data and should have the right to easily access their information and control who gets to see it. We also believe in data portability, and we support open standards that enable consumers to control their data and take it wherever they'd like."