Google was famous for its distillation of business practices into the motto “Don’t be evil.” The phrase prefaced its corporate code of conduct, promulgated in 2000. Last year the company quietly removed the phrase. The company’s code of conduct is now more typically corporate-speak: “… the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct …” and so on.
(I am reminded of the pithy code of conduct posted at the late, lamented Powerhouse Brewery in Sebastopol California: “Be Nice or Leave.”)
Google recently paid $2.1 billion to buy Fitbit, maker of the tracking device worn by millions of health enthusiasts. Google now has not just the number of steps a person takes; Fitbit also records a person’s gender and date of birth, along with location, heart rate, sleep habits and more. (Of course, Google already knows where a person is and has been, in real life and on the Internet.)
Google’s mission to know — and monetize — every thing about every person. They recently partnered with Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S. Fitbit fills in some blanks around people’s health history including lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records. So far, they’ve gathered millions of health care records from hospitals in twenty-one states.
Neither doctors nor patients have been told that the data is being shared with Google, but there is no need for worry, because they won’t be evil.