Big Tech’s War On Your Healthcare Data
Mayo Clinic’s partnership with Google is a harbinger of the coming Big Tech tyranny.
Data is the new oil. When it comes to extracting personal data, Americans are being monitored and mined now more than ever. Internet service providers sell your browsing data; cell phone providers do the very same thing. Worryingly, the invasive reach of Big Tech behemoths like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft is extending by the day, and their methods of staying relevant are constantly evolving. During the pandemic, while the rest of us suffered, they prospered—and handsomely. With a voracious appetite for your data, these companies are now branching out into different areas, especially healthcare. Recent reporting has uncovered that Mayo Clinic has big plans for the world of healthcare. During an interview at the World Health Summit in Berlin, Molly Bower, Mayo Clinic’s head of marketing, said that the Clinic has ambitions of predicting and curing major illnesses even before they occur. How can Mayo Clinic achieve this-not-so modest goal? By collecting copious amounts of personal data. “What we’re hoping to do,” said Bower, “is gather . . . the medical records of everybody in the world, so we can start to predict before diseases and conditions even happen.”
In its quest for data dominance, Mayo Clinic will have more than a little help from Google, arguably the most powerful corporation in existence. In 2019, shortly after Mayo Clinic launched the Mayo Clinic Platform, an attempt to leverage the power of AI and other emerging technologies, they signed a 10-year partnership with Google. This agreement ensured that Google Cloud, a set of services built around data management, became the “cornerstone” of the Clinic’s “digital transformation,” allowing Google Cloud access to the entirety of Mayo Clinic’s data. This partnership should not fill readers with a sense of joy.
The choice to allow Google Cloud to store sensitive data was unwise, because the platform has been hacked numerous times. In 2018, for example, Google was hit by an attack that was traced back to China that affected over 800,000 Cloud customers. The attack involved the theft of sensitive information, including users’ names, email addresses, and passwords. Though Chinese cyber actors have always been in the market for customer data, in recent times they have developed a savage appetite for people’s healthcare data—more specifically, the healthcare data of the American people. Healthcare ransomware attacks are on the rise, and the U.S. is not prepared for the innumerable dangers that await. As I write, one group known as the Daixin Team is actively stealing patient health information and using it to extort victims.
The sizable threat from foreign actors aside, there is something deeply unpleasant about the idea of Google—a company that removed the “Don’t be evil” clause as its motto from its code of conduct and replaced it with “Organizing the world’s information”—having access to Americans’ healthcare data. But in these deeply unpleasant times, Google’s grip on the healthcare sector continues to tighten. In September, as Fierce Healthcare’s Annie Burky reported, Google Cloud signed “a multiyear strategic partnership” with LifePoint Health, a healthcare company that operates 89 hospital campuses in 30 U.S. states. The deal resulted in the implementation of Google Cloud’s healthcare data engine in LifePoint’s hospitals.
Google is a problematic company with a history of misusing users’ data, but it isn’t the only Big Tech colossus that wants a slice of the healthcare pie. Microsoft and Amazon, two other corporations accused of various wrongdoings, are also getting involved. Like Google, Microsoft is leveraging its cloud capabilities to revolutionize the healthcare sector. Amazon, meanwhile, recently acquired One Medical, a San Francisco-based chain of primary healthcare clinics.
As I have written previously, the unholy alliance between Big Tech and Big Healthcare has been occurring for some time now. Researchers at Oxford have shown how Big Tech dominates healthcare through “digital colonization,” which involves extracting, analyzing, and exploiting data for profit. The colonization process starts with tech companies supplying their data infrastructure to various hospitals and healthcare centers. It ends with tech companies leveraging their relationships to gain access to health data and target patients with carefully crafted advertisements and products. Of course, some benefits will come from these partnerships. However, only the most delusional of individuals would put their faith in Big Tech improving the lives of the American people.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.