Verily is a child company of Google. The main purpose of founding the company is to have a platform that can be used by the people to spread awareness among people. The platform was made public in the conference at White House conference conducted by the president of the USA Donald Trump. The platform is used to provide primary tests and screening of Coronavirus.
Since there is a shortage of testing centers for Coronavirus and not having plenty of resources to detect it, this website is launched for the time being. It turns out that this platform has flaws and limitations to provide people the service it is to be expected. The website is meant to provide the results about COVID-19 and whether they should go for the test of Coronavirus. It takes the symptoms as an input and provides you with the proper guidance to take precautionary measures.
To access the website, the user should have a Google account. Those who don’t have the Google account have to create one first. By this means, the company can be authentic to the user. Utilizing email, the company can communicate and send important messages. All your scores and test results will be sent to you via email.
This requirement of the company has raised the issue of data privacy. Since the company is receiving tons of data every day, the risk of management and leakage has been a major issue. Jake Snow, who is an expert attorney on technology and civil rights, said: “COVID-19 testing is a vital public necessity right now — a core imperative for slowing this disease”.
A Verily spokesperson said, “The services the Baseline COVID-19 Program is providing require the limited and responsible sharing of information with other groups”. While going through the test of Coronavirus on Verily platform, they have mentioned that the data that they are receiving will be shared among certain service providers. One of them is Google itself.
In the European Union, any exchange of information without the proper consultation from the user is termed as forced consult. It is a punishable act. Many companies, such as Facebook, have faced the consequences. In 2018, Facebook faced multiple charges against the crime of forced consult and selling data of the users to other parties.
The executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, Albert Fox Cahn said: “What’s most chilling is that most states have no prohibition on this sort of coercion, forcing people to sign away their privacy to access vital government services.” He meant to say that the people should be aware of the company’s actions if they are going to play a major role in the battle of COVID-19.
Verily assures you that they have implemented all the precaution measures to save the privacy of the people. But the act of Verily has violated the rights against GDPR. There is another act of which the company is accused, and that is the California Consumer Privacy Act. But since this act does not cover all the rights of the digital forced consult, it is dropped.
Whenever you give them access to your Google account to Verily, it will fetch all the data of your account and relate to it and share it directly with the company such as Salesforce. The cover story for this act by the company is that they are sharing it to manage contacts of users. Even if this is true, the company hasn’t taken any initiative to look forward to the data and the purpose it is being used.
The staff attorney at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation Communications and Technology Clinic, Lindsey Barrett, said: “I think the more entities you’re sharing sensitive health information with, the more vectors there are for both abuse and screw-ups.” People should be aware of this social issue.
Data is the fuel for the future. In the era of machine learning and artificial intelligence, data is the main ingredient to develop the systems that will help immensely to the IT companies. Many organizations collect all our data by different means. But the dark side of this is that your data is sold to many different third parties. Many companies are practicing this kind of behavior for monetary purposes. It is the responsibility of the user to be aware of your data privacy and who has access to your data.