Opinion: Hackers could get our health records


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Our digital medical records will now be on the Google cloud network, which means our personal information could be a few clicks away from hackers.

Morgan Tropf, Staff Writer

3,809,448 a day. 158,727 per hour.

That is how many personal records are stolen from breaches, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. As more and more companies expand, they acquire more information from us. Recent negotiations may now pose a risk to patients health records which is putting all of us in danger.

Natasha Singer and Daisuke Wakabayashi of The New York Times reported on the new partnership between Google and Ascension, which is a medical system that operates 150 hospitals in 20 states. The agreement allows Ascensions patients medical records to be uploaded to Google’s cloud network.

This raises privacy concerns as all aspects of our lives are now uploaded onto the same database from our health records to our text messages and everything in between.

The New York Times highlighted the logistics behind this deal. Singer and Wakabayashi wrote, “It is legal for health systems to share patients’ medical information with business partners like electronic medical record companies. Even so, many patients may not trust Google, which has paid multiple fines for violating privacy laws, with their personal medical details.”

Although it is not technically a violation of HIPAA law, uploading medical records onto Google’s servers forces many eyes onto the chart. Medical records should be kept strictly between medical professionals and patients without exposing them to bystanders.

The New York Times further addresses some concerns with Google’s intentions. “Google’s handling of healthcare data is a touchy subject. Through its advertising business, Google already knows a vast amount about consumers — including what people are interested in, where they are located, and what they watch on YouTube or search for on Google,” wrote Singer and Wakabayashi.

Junior Ella Barth has noticed that her information is already shared throughout different websites, especially to generate ads. Barth said, “If all of our information is in one spot, it can easily be stolen by someone who is technologically advanced so if it’s all in one place, someone can easily steal your identity [more] than if it’s all spread out.”

AP computer science teacher Trevor McGrath partly agrees with Barth’s perspective but also has concern about the security of all databases. “I think by having it all on one [database], the risk there is losing that information is high. For example, if that server got destroyed somehow, it would be easier to lose that information.”

This would be especially prominent today while Google is monopolizing the cloud storage industry. Google will store all of our information on their databases which poses risks not only in protecting it from others but also ensuring that it is handled carefully.

McGrath argues that safety cannot be determined by the size of the company or of their databases. McGrath said, “As far as the privacy part, you could go either way. It’s nice if it’s spread out because if one company tries to steal information there not getting everything, they just have access to a little bit. But at the same time, different companies allow different ways that it can get stolen.”

Furthermore, whether medical records are stored on Google’s servers or another company, they are at risk of hackers. Paper and pen medical records are the safest option, although they may not be as convenient in our technological society.

McGrath tries to ignore the fact that his privacy is in jeopardy, like many other Americans. McGrath said, “I try not to think about it too much because it is scary knowing that all of that stuff is out there. I feel like there’s always people trying to hack into other companies databases and take that information and a lot of times they are successful.”

According to The Verge, Google already has a shady past. Mary Beth Griggs wrote, “Google secretly gathered millions of patient records across 21 states on behalf of a healthcare provider, in an effort dubbed ‘Project Nightingale,’ reports The Wall Street Journal. Neither the provider’s doctors nor patients were made aware of the effort, according to the report.”

Barth is worried about her safety which is impacted by the privacy of information stored online. She said, “Once these websites have your personal information they can do whatever they want with it. Even if they say they are not accessing certain things, there’s really no way to tell until it’s too late.”