Senate Dems Want Google, Ascension to 'Sing' About Nightingale

Leading Energy & Commerce Committee Democrats have asked the CEOs of Google and health care provider Ascension for briefings with the companies on reports that Google got access to tens of millions of patient health records as part of the "Project Nightingale" initiative.

That came in letters to both companies.

The legislators want a briefing by Dec. 6 on the project, including how the data is being used and shared, who at Google/Alphabet has access to it, the extent to which patients were informed about the use of their data, and how the companies are protecting privacy

“While we appreciate your efforts to provide the public with further information about Project Nightingale, this initiative raises serious privacy concerns,” they wrote to the companies. For example, longstanding questions related to Google’s commitment to protecting the privacy of its own users’ data raise serious concerns about whether Google can be a good steward of patients’ personal health information.   

"Additionally," they said, "despite the sensitivity of the information collected through Project Nightingale, reports indicate that employees across Google, including at its parent company Alphabet, have access to, and the ability to download, the personal health information of Ascension’s patients. Concerns have also been justifiably raised about Ascension’s decision not to notify its patients that their information would be shared with Google or how their information would be used." 

Signing on to the letter were Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).  

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.