Consumer Watchdog To Google: Publicly Disclose Your Lobbying Positions On Electronic Medical Record Provisions In Stimulus Bill

Santa Monica, CA — A national consumer group today called upon Google to publicly disclose its lobbying positions on the electronic medical record provisions of the financial stimulus legislation given a new account by an independent journalist that Google’s presence on the bill was felt on Capitol Hill.

Consumer Watchdog called on Google’s public policy team for an immediate answer. The letter follows:

Robert Boorstin
Director of Corporate and Policy Communications
Google, Inc.

Pablo Chavez
Senior Policy Counsel
Google, Inc.
 
Dear Mr. Boorstin and Mr. Chavez,

Last week Google wrote that our consumer group’s report of a rumored Google lobbying effort on Capitol Hill, reportedly aimed at limiting the current prohibition on the sale of electronic medical records in the economic stimulus bill, was “100 percent false and unfounded.”  The Google blog appears at: http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2009/01/consumer-watchdog-wrong-on-medical.html
 
Now an independent journalist has produced other reports of Google’s lobbying over the medical privacy provisions of the stimulus legislation.  George Lauer, iHealthBeat Features Editor, wrote on January 30 that "[t]wo other privacy advocates and a Congressional staffer who did not want to go on record said they have heard reports of Google representatives contacting Congress members’ offices."  Lauer’s article is available at: http://www.ihealthbeat.org/Features/2009/Stimulus-Package-Brings-Out-Wide-Range-of-Privacy-Opinions.aspx
 
Currently, Google Health provides for the transfer of electronic medical records from health care providers to Google’s database.  While Google’s methods for obtaining and using records are opaque, clearly Google has an interest in these provisions of the stimulus legislation, and as Mr. Lauer’s article illustrates, Google’s presence on the Hill was felt.
 
Google’s purported mission is to create open information across the world.  We ask now that you explain clearly and openly the policy positions Google advocated on the Hill with regard to the electronic medical technology provisions of the stimulus package, as well as the positions Google will advocate this week on the same legislation in the U.S. Senate.
 
Lobbying on Capitol Hill is, as you know, a less than transparent enterprise with policy positions advocated orally, with no paper trail.  Given Google’s adamant denial of the claim that Google lobbied to alter current medical privacy protections, countervailing reports from multiple sources that Google lobbied on these provisions, and your company’s outspoken commitment to openness, we ask that Google immediately and publicly disclose its positions with regard to the electronic medical records technology section in the stimulus bill, including any amendments Google sought in the legislation previously or will seek in the Senate.  The U.S. Senate, the American public and Google users deserve no less.
 
Sincerely,

Jerry Flanagan
(310) 889-4912
 
cc:

Eric Schmidt, CEO
Larry Page, Co-Founders
Sergey Brin, Co-Founder

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