As Google Doesn’t Know Enough Already
It’s safe to say that Google is already well positioned to know our behaviour and interests online. Now they want to know more, asking us for our health records, MIT Technology Review reports.
Verily, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, recently launched the Baseline Project, looking to predict cancer and heart disease.
Asking 10,000 Americans to be monitored through a heart tracking watch that follows their pulse and movements in real time, they are hoping to discover new biological predictors of disease.
Each volunteer will get their blood tested in liquid biopsies, which might be able to detect cancer early, in addition to having their genomes analysed.
Standford and Duke University are two of the sites that will be recruiting patients, which involve payments of at least $75 million. In other words, this study is likely to be very expensive. The sequencing of the participants’ DNA and the molecular testing will be carried out by Verily itself.
This is the biggest in depth study of this kind, with collected samples including participants’ saliva, stool and even tears. The volunteers will also be given an electric loop to place under their mattresses to monitor their sleep patterns. Verily will also gain access to their health records.
It is unclear what participants will sign on a consent form, so it’s not known exactly how their data might be used. However, a consent form used through the website for volunteers expressing interest says that Verily may sell participants’ data, for example to drug companies. The document also notes that the participants will not share any profits from the study.
Similar studies have been done previously, including the Framingham Heart study which has followed its participants since 1948 and established the link between smoking and heart disease.
Nevertheless, this study by Google differentiates itself by its extensive molecular tests and their pursuit of tracking people’s lives by getting inside of their homes, and even bedrooms!