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Technology Senators press Google Verily again on data privacy of coronavirus website

00:05  01 april  2020
00:05  01 april  2020 Source:   cnet.com

Trump announces Google will launch coronavirus site – just don't expect it anytime soon

  Trump announces Google will launch coronavirus site – just don't expect it anytime soon New Google site will pre-screen people who think they may be infected with the coronavirus with a questionnaire.President Donald Trump announced details at a Friday news conference, but the website does not have a launch date.

The senators also took issue with the website requiring a Google account to take the screener, a move that has already drawn scrutiny from privacy Tuesday's letter is a follow up to another missive by senators from March 18 about data concerns. In response to that letter, though, Verily said it

Five Democratic senators sent letters Wednesday pressing Google and the White House over the security of the coronavirus information website that the search giant is developing.

A group of Democratic US senators on Tuesday grilled Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent Alphabet, over privacy issues related to the company's coronavirus screening website.

a close up of a screen: Senators wrote an open letter to Verily. Getty © Provided by CNET Senators wrote an open letter to Verily. Getty

The website, which launched two weeks ago, gives people take online screener surveys to see if they should go to testing stations for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The tool, which is right now only open to people in four California counties, is hosted through Verily's Project Baseline, an initiative to advance clinical research.

Google says nationwide coronavirus website is in development

  Google says nationwide coronavirus website is in development President Trump misspoke when he said Google was developing a national screening and test result site for potential coronavirus patients (that's just Verily's Bay Area pilot for now), but there was apparently a degree of truth involved. In a series of clarifying tweets, Google said it was teaming with the US government on a "nationwide website" that would provide info about COVID-19 symptoms, risks and testing info. The company characterized this as separate from the Verily project and other coronavirus information efforts.

Google now says it is working with the government on the creation of a national website containing information about coronavirus symptoms and testing information.

Live statistics and coronavirus news tracking the number of confirmed cases, recovered patients, and death toll by country due to the COVID 19 coronavirus from Wuhan, China. Coronavirus counter with new cases, historical data , and info.

The lawmakers raised concerns about the website's compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, the federal law regulating the security and privacy of certain medical information. The senators also took issue with the website requiring a Google account to take the screener, a move that has already drawn scrutiny from privacy advocates.

"As Verily moves forward with the Baseline COVID-19 Pilot Program and test screening websites in California, it is essential that you address these critical privacy concerns," the senators wrote in an open letter to Verily CEO Andy Conrad. The letter is signed by Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Alphabet's Verily launches coronavirus testing website for SF Bay Area

  Alphabet's Verily launches coronavirus testing website for SF Bay Area California Governor Gavin Newsom said he hopes the partnership with Google's sister company could be a "national model" for coronavirus screening.The software tool is hosted through Verily's Project Baseline, an initiative to advance clinical research. It allows people in the Bay Area to take online screener surveys to see if they should go to testing sites in Santa Clara county or San Mateo county for examinations. Along with partnering with the federal government, Verily also worked with the California governor's office.

Google ’s sister company Verily has launched a screening website for people who want to get tested for COVID-19. However, as we have reported, Verily ’s website is very limited in scope: it’s Share All sharing options for: Verily ’s coronavirus screening website launches with very limited access.

A coronavirus screening service launched by Google ’s sister company this week is raising red flags on Capitol Hill, where five senior Senate Democrats are questioning In handling that information, Verily pledges on its site it is “committed to maintaining high privacy standards and keeping your data safe.”

Verily didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter comes as tech giants have tried to use their resources and engineering chops to contribute to the coronavirus reponse. Apple last week launched its own COVID-19 website and app, in partnership with the CDC and White House. Google also pledged more than $800 million last week to the relief effort, mostly in free advertising for small and medium sized businesses, as well as entities like the World Health Organization.

a close up of a screen: Google headquarters in Mountain View, California © Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California

But even as the tech giants try to help, they're still haunted by past privacy controversies. Tuesday's letter is a follow up to another missive by senators from March 18 about data concerns. In response to that letter, though, Verily said it keeps data separate from Google. "We do not combine this data with an individual's Google account, and were we to ever wish to do so, individuals would need to provide separate and explicit consent," Verily wrote.

On Tuesday, the senators asked what that consent process would look like. They also asked if Verily would provide a way to use the site without a Google account.

Verily has until April 6 to respond to the letter.

Google donates Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots to California students .
To help students keep up with their studies during the coronavirus pandemic, Google will donate 4,000 Chromebooks and 100,000 WiFi hotspots to households in California. Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the initiative in a tweet on Wednesday. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state's Department of Education will distribute the Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots, prioritizing rural communities. Students will have the tools until the end of the school year, giving them at least three months of unlimited high-speed internet access.

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