Personal Health Records

I worked in technology publishing earlier in my career and I attended a trade show in 1998, the name escapes me now, but I remember a demo during a keynote that featured Linus Torvalds and showed perhaps for the first time publicly, Google.

It was a thing of beauty and literally had the audience gasping. The clean interface, the search box, in fact it was the exact same then as it is now. Elegant and simple.

I've long had respect for Google and have partnered with them on a white paper and was an early user of Google Analytics.

However, I wonder whether their plan to store personal health records and to compete with Microsoft's HealthVault, is a bit of "me too." I think they face an uphill battle when it comes to the current perception of their privacy policies and getting people to turn over their personal information. They continue to roll out plans to improve user experience through the use of the aggregate data they collect, such as ad behavioral, err contextual targeting and Web site benchmarking within their analytics. While very helpful in many circumstances it is borderline creepy to get served an ad in my Gmail account based on text from an email I received. Privacy advocates and conspiracy theorists hypothesize that your private data may not be so private, which can be an obstacle to storing delicate health information.

Even in the U.S. where there is a lower bar for privacy expectations than in Europe, I think they will have some difficulty getting this off the ground and iterate over time as they like to do without critical mass. And anecdotal evidence I am aware of points to pretty severe business and legal resistance to Google and their privacy policies in places other than the U.S.

Ultimately, this battle will be won and lost based on the strategy, platform, and device interoperability. I'd say the first three rounds of the fight have gone to MSFT and their approach to getting manufacturers and brands on board first, but Google looks poised to put up a fight.


I was a touch early on the reference to EU privacy concerns. Here is an article that outlines the issues quite nicely.
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