Google says Consumer Watchdog wrong on medical records claim

By Chelsey Ledue
11:01 AM

Google has responded to Consumer Watchdog's call to end a rumored lobbying effort aimed at allowing the sale of electronic medical records in the current version of the economic stimulus legislation.

"This claim is 100 percent false and unfounded," Google officials said.

Google's Policy Blog, posted Tuesday by Senior Policy Counsel Pablo Chavez, reads: "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 healthcare industry."

Consumer Watchdog, a California-based, non-profit consumer education and advocacy organization, is urging 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.

"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," Chavez wrote on the Google blog. "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."

Watchdog charged that Google is pushing for the provisions so it may sell patient medical information to its advertising clients on the new "Google Health" database.

"We have corresponded with Consumer Watchdog several times over the past few months to hear and address their concerns. It's unfortunate that they did not contact us before making today's unfounded statements, because we could have told them that their claims were patently false," Google officials said in the blog entry.

Watchdog also wrote: "The medical technology portion of the economic stimulus bill does not sufficiently protect patient privacy, and recent amendments have made this situation worse. Medical privacy must be strengthened before the measure's final passage, rather than allowing corporate interests to take advantage of the larger bill's urgency."