Last night, I was having dinner with a few people from my gym. At one point, the conversation turned to a young lady and the Stanford and Duke University research study she had signed up to be a part of . Apparently for four year, she’ll have a watch on all the time that will collect heart rate and her activity level. In addition, she’ll have to go in for regular visits and give them blood, urine, saliva, and stool samples, amongst other things. She’s allowing them to have all access to her medical history, and her genome information.
This is where the discussion got a little too technical for me, as some of the people I was eating with are actually medical researchers in things like epigenetics. In fact, it was one of these researchers that said the one thing he would be uncomfortable about was handing over his genome information.
Today, I did a Google search for this study and found this link: https://verily.com/projects/precision-medicine/baseline-study/
The link above gives you information on Project Baseline, which sounds like a pretty standard long-term research study of 10,000 people over a 4-year period to provide a baseline of health, to better predict causes of disease, so we can treat disease proactively, instead of medicating disease after its developed. And Verily is partnering with Duke University and Stanford University. These kinds of studies do happen all the time.
Here’s the thing. Based on the conversation from the night before, I knew the scariest part of the study, and something that is not mentioned – at least not clearly – in the link above – that Verily is part of Alphabet’s Life Sciences division. Alphabet is the other name for…Google.
Yes, 10,000 participants, including at least one person I know – and maybe two – are handing over 4-years of their life, their health records, their blood, urine, stool (gross!), and DNA/genome information to Google.
Surprisingly, only a couple of us at the table had reservations. I was horrified. Most of the table was only interested in the fact that the participant will get a free watch tracker, have a large amount of health data about her done for free, and will be paid $400 per year. $400 per year? Is that all it takes to hand over your freedom and your genome?
I joked that the girl will be sitting in her apartment one day and there will be a knock at the door, and on the other end will be her clone, ready to knock her over the head and take over her life.
Here’s an article that clearly lays out the whole project – Project Baseline. http://fortune.com/2017/04/19/alphabet-verily-project-baseline/
Unfortunately, this is what happens when public funds no longer go to medical research. Private money steps in to fill the void. Not that there’s much difference one way or the other. Whether it’s government funded research, and privately funded research, if you are part of one of these studies, you are handing over your most personal data.
Data is the most valuable resource in these modern times. Data has replaced gold as the mineral the wealthy want to get their hands on. Your information is now the product that corporations and the government want to sell for a profit. Data is the new product to be traded, and we’re all little data mines to be drilled into.