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13 Nov, 2019 19:17

Google wades into banking even as it faces new federal probe into shady medical data collection

Google wades into banking even as it faces new federal probe into shady medical data collection

Google wants you to trust it with your money, even as its latest privacy scandal, where millions of Americans' medical records were covertly slurped up to power a secret AI project, has triggered another federal investigation.

Google is rolling out a consumer finance division, currently codenamed Cache, in partnership with Citigroup and a Stanford University credit union, the Wall Street Journal revealed on Wednesday. The search behemoth will begin offering checking accounts to customers next year, muscling into yet another market, despite a mounting stack of federal investigations targeting potential antitrust abuses.

Also on rt.com Google sucks up & analyzes healthcare data on millions of Americans in secret AI project… after voluntary opt-in flops

And the number of federal probes is growing, thanks to the revelation that Google had secretly obtained millions of Americans' medical records through its partnership with healthcare giant Ascension. The Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights has opened a probe into whether Google respected federal privacy law in collecting the massive trove of healthcare data from 21 states without patients' permission for its top-secret Project Nightingale. A loophole in the law allows healthcare providers to share patient records without an individual's consent - so long as the sharing "helps" the provider "carry out its healthcare functions."

With Project Nightingale, Google says, it hopes to use data on tens of millions of Americans to program machine-learning AI capable of tracking patients and prescribing treatments. But given Google's history of using everything from search terms to email content for targeted marketing, the project unsettled many after it was revealed earlier this week - especially combined with Google's purchase of wearable device maker Fitbit, which monitors vital signs like pulse.

Google tried asking patients for their health data over a decade ago with Google Health, only to close up shop when patients balked at handing their records to the insatiable data-miner. Users seem far less reluctant to hand over their financial data, though – 58 percent of respondents in a recent survey said they'd trust Google for financial products. That's higher than either Apple or Facebook, other Big Tech behemoths who have already made similarly direct moves for their customers' wallets.

Also on rt.com Google buys Fitbit, acquiring users’ health histories & triggering privacy backlash

Also like Google, both of those are being probed by the Justice Department for potential antitrust violations. Facebook's ambitions to launch a cryptocurrency are being met with strident resistance from world governments, causing some of its corporate partners to drop out, and Apple's Goldman Sachs-backed credit card is in hot water for what appears to be sexist assignment of credit limits. And even if people don't rush to open checking accounts with Google, there's no guarantee the company will not whip up an AI algorithm to help “normal” banks manage their funds – which will require bank customers' financial information to program.

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