Yet another reason not to buy a Fitbit: Google’s secret ‘Project Nightingale’ gathers personal health data on millions of Americans

Google is engaged in a secret project with one of the country’s largest health-care systems to collect and crunch the detailed personal health information of millions of Americans across 21 states, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing “people familiar with the matter and internal documents.”

Rob Copeland for The Wall Street Journal:

The initiative, code-named “Project Nightingale,” appears to be the largest in a series of efforts by Silicon Valley giants to gain access to personal health data and establish a toehold in the massive health-care industry.

Google began the effort last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S., with the data sharing accelerating over this summer and fall, the documents show. The data involved in Project Nightingale pertains to lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.

Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and documents…

A Google spokeswoman said the project is fully compliant with federal health law and includes robust protections for patient data.

MacDailyNews Take: Google is engaged in a secret project to collect detailed personal data? Shocking!

Yet another reason not to buy a Fitbit, unless you want Google to have your steps, exercise data, heart rates, sleep patterns, weight, Fitbit friends, etc. for free.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “TJ” for the heads up.


  1. What could go wrong?… “and includes robust protections for patient data” – – “At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients” …

  2. It’s obviously valuable info and, because of that, would it really be a surprise if Apple didn’t do some increasingly aggressive/focused “gathering?”

    Tim has said, Apple’s legacy will be its focus on health. Widespread knowledge of your “customers/patients” will be mandatory for success. I hope/trust AAPL’s ways/means is distinctly different from Google’s.

    1. It would not surprise me except for the fact that if apple is doing it you can be assured it is anonymized and tokenized so it cannot be related back to any specific individual. Based on google’s practices in the past….. for them that is very doubtful if not certainly not happening.

  3. Just remember how Google makes its profit, primarily. By collecting and using your personal data. Google users are not customers, they’re the commodity. Compare to Apple, who profits primarily by selling physical products and providing services that enhance the customer experience of those products. Apple’s motivations are directly aligned with customers’ desires, because happy customers mean they’ll return to by more products.

  4. This seems to be a very specious report at this time. I assume the data has been gathered with consent — when you go to the doctor, you are often asked to OK sharing your health information with various partners, medical and non-medical, still under HIPA (in the US) protections.

    I find it hard to believe it’s being collected illegally.

    1. Exactly. Ascension Health already has the data, gathered with patient consent. They store it on servers that are probably in the cloud, as in… Amazon. That isn’t much different from what is described here. They do not have to notify the patients or doctors when they change IT vendors.

      From my experience with Ascension (the largest hospital chain in Austin), they are paranoid about compliance with HIPAA. They would not be sharing data with Google/Alphabet if they weren’t 100% sure of absolute HIPAA compliance.

      As Steven Stills put it, “Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep.”

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