Saturday, March 20, 2021

The SMART Healthcards Framework

unlimitedhangout |  The SMART Health Cards framework was developed by a team led by the chief architect of Microsoft Healthcare, Josh Mandel, who was previously the Health IT Ecosystem lead for Verily, formerly Google Life Sciences. Verily is currently heavily involved in COVID-19 testing throughout the United States, particularly in California, and links test recipients’ results to their Google accounts. Their other COVID-19 initiatives have been criticized due to still-unresolved privacy concerns, something that has also plagued several of Verily’s other efforts pre-COVID-19, including those involving Mandel.

Of particular concern is that Verily, and by extension Google, created Project Baseline, which has been collecting “actionable genetic information” with a focus on “population health” from participants since 2017. Yet, during the COVID-19 process, Project Baseline has become an important component of Verily’s COVID-19 testing efforts, raising the unsettling possibility that Verily has been obtaining Americans’ DNA data through its COVID-19 testing activities. While Verily has not addressed this possibility directly, it is worth noting that Google has been heavily involved in amassing genomic data for several years. For instance, in 2013, Google Genomics was founded with the goal of storing and analyzing DNA data on Google Cloud servers. Now known as Cloud Life Sciences, the Google subsidiary has since developed AI algorithms that can “build your genome sequence” and “identify all the mutations that an individual inherits from their parents.”

Google also has close ties with the best-known DNA testing companies in the United States, such as Ancestry.com. Ancestry, recently purchased by private-equity behemoth Blackstone, shares data with a secretive Google subsidiary that uses genomic data to develop lifespan-extending therapies. In addition, the wife of Google cofounder Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, is the cofounder and CEO of DNA testing company 23andMe. Wojcicki is also the sister of the CEO of Google-owned YouTube, Susan Wojcicki.

Google and the majority of VCI’s backers—Microsoft, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic, the Mayo Clinic, and MITRE Corporation, Change Healthcare—are also prominent members of the MITRE-run COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. Other members of that coalition include the CIA’s In-Q-Tel and the CIA-linked data-mining firm Palantir, as well as a myriad of health-care and health-record companies. The coalition fits well with the ambitions of Google and like-minded companies that have sought to gain access to troves of American health data under the guise of combatting COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition describes itself as a public-private partnership that has enabled “the critical infrastructure to enable collaboration and shared analytics” on COVID-19 through the sharing of health-care and COVID-19 data among members. That this coalition and VCI are intimately involved with MITRE Corporation is significant, given that MITRE is a well-known, yet secretive, contractor for the US government, specifically the CIA and other intelligence agencies, which has developed Orwellian surveillance and biometric technologies, including several now focused on COVID-19.

Just three days before the public announcement of VCI’s establishment, Microsoft Healthcare and Google’s Verily announced a partnership along with MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute to share the companies’ cloud data and AI technologies with a “global network of more than 168,000 health and life sciences partners” to accelerate the Terra platform. Terra, originally developed by the Broad Institute and Verily, is an “open data ecosystem” focused on biomedical research, specifically the fields of cancer genomics, population genetics, and viral genomics. The biomedical data Terra amasses includes not only genetic data but also medical-imaging, biometric signals, and electronic health records. Google, through its partnership with the Pentagon, which was announced last September, has moved to utilize the analysis of such data in order to “predictively diagnose” diseases such as cancer and COVID-19. US military contractors, such as Advanced Technology International, have been developing wearables that would apply that AI-driven predictive diagnosis technology to COVID-19 diagnoses.