- Google’s life sciences sister company, Verily, appears to have rushed to unveil a website for coronavirus testing after a botched announcement from President Trump.
- Verily’s Project Baseline site offers information about COVID-19 and a process for people worried about their risk to schedule tests.
- The site, live as of Sunday night, appears half-finished and confusing.
- Trump announced the project on Friday, and appears to have both exaggerated its scope and taken Google and Verily off guard.
- Verily said over the weekend that the project was in the early phase of development.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Google’s life sciences sister company, Verily, appears to have rushed to launch a website offering access to COVID-19 screening, after a botched announcement by President Trump.
The website, called Project Baseline, has been developed by Verily alongside the California Governor’s office, as well as federal, state and local public health authorities.
The goal is to offer information about COVID-19 and scheduling people who are worried about their risk for tests.
The site went live on Sunday but looks somewhat incomplete. Its launch was muddled by mischaracterizations about the project by President Trump, who announced on Friday that Google was building a nationwide coronavirus-testing website.
The online tool is in fact being developed by Google’s sister company Verily and initially only available to people in parts of California. Seperately, Google said it was building a website that points to information about COVID-19 but doesn’t involve any screening.
Trump’s announcement appeared to catch Google off guard, and Verily eventually released a statement saying the screening project was in its early stages.
That’s evidenced by how thin the website seems – here’s how it looks:
On Friday, President Trump claimed Google had 1,700 engineers working on a nationwide service to help coronavirus tests. This appeared to be misleading.
Google later clarified that its sister firm Verily was working on the project, which isn’t yet nationwide
Google is, however, creating a separate website that contains COVID-19 information.
Here’s how it works: Visitors to Verily’s Project Baseline website are prompted to take a survey to see if they’re eligible for COVID-19 testing
The website specifies that the site is only triaging people in Santa Clara and San Mateo in California.
There’s one major privacy barrier — you have to create a Google account or connect your existing one to Project Baseline
Confusingly, it isn’t clear how you’re actually meant to connect your Google account to Project Baseline.
In its site FAQs, Google says: “We ask that you create a Google Account or connect your existing Google Account to participate in this program. This will enable us to collect your answers to the screening survey, contact you to schedule testing, and deliver results back to you. Your data collected by Verily through the testing program will never be joined with your data stored in Google products without your explicit permission.”
Google might also share your data with third parties, but says it won’t use your information for advertising.
On its site, Google says Verily personnel will have access to individuals’ names, addresses, and phone numbers in order to schedule tests.
It also says: “Information may also be shared with certain service providers engaged to perform services on behalf of Verily, including Google, which Verily leverages for certain technology and services, including cloud services, security services, data storage, website hosting, and other support functions.”
If you click into the survey, you are asked if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
Confusingly, if you answer “yes,” it says the testing program “is not the right fit”
If you answer “no,” the website continues the survey and asks for your age
If you say you’re under 18, the survey says you’re ineligible for testing
If you say you’re over 18, it asks if you live within 50 miles of the testing sites in Santa Clara County or San Mateo County, California
If you say “no,’ it tells you you’re ineligible for testing
If you answer “yes,” you’re told (as of Monday March 16) that no appointments can be scheduled
Verily says its site will become more accessible and effective in the coming weeks.
A Verily spokeswoman said: “In these first few days of this pilot, we expect appointment availability to be limited as we stand up operations and that testing capacity will increase in the days to come.
“While there is currently a limited supply of testing kits in the United States, healthcare organisations are making progress in their ability to create and distribute kits. We expect to see an increase in testing availability over the coming weeks, and are working with a number of partners across healthcare to ensure that we can expand our capabilities as quickly as possible.
“We’re beginning by screening and testing individuals at high risk of COVID-19. We plan to test, iterate, and collaborate closely with our partners to make testing more accessible and expedient in other areas.”