Google Is Going To Collect Health Information From People For A New Genetic Study

Google will collect anonymous health data for a project that will define what a healthy human should look like, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The project, called Baseline Study, won’t be confined to studying specific diseases. Instead it will gather a vast amount of data from 175 people using various diagnostic tools and will hopefully help researchers detect diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, much earlier.

For example, participants could wear Google’s smart contact lenses, to monitor glucose levels.

After the data is collected, Google will use its computing power to analyse the info and find patterns, called “biomarkers,” the WSJ says.

Baseline Study is headed by molecular biologist Andrew Conrad, who joined Google X last year.

“With any complex system, the notion has always been there to proactively address problems,” Conrad told the WSJ. “That’s not revolutionary. We are just asking the question: If we really wanted to be proactive, what would we need to know? You need to know what the fixed, well-running thing should look like.”

Privacy is a big concern when it comes to user information, not least of which when it comes to health data. But Baseline will be monitored by review boards and the data won’t be shared with insurance companies, the WSJ reports. Also, the data will be collected by third-party clinics, and the information won’t be shared with Google until it’s been made anonymous.

“That’s certainly an issue that’s been discussed,” Dr. Sam Gambhir, chair of the Department of Radiology at Stanford University’s medical school, told the WSJ. Gambhir has been working with Conrad on the project for more than a year. “Google will not be allowed free rein to do whatever it wants with this data.”

Google is yet another big tech company jumping into health-tracking. Samsung announced its healthcare platform, called SAMI, this year. And Apple announced HealthKit at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference.

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