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Why trust Google Health still in beta test mode?

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Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Why would anybody trust their private medial records to a service that by its own admission doesn’t have all the kinks worked out?  Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Google is asking you to do with its Google Health service.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about Google lately.  There are serious privacy concerns about how the Internet giant gathers and uses personal information. Then there are antitrust issues that we have raised with the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Part of thinking  about Google has meant I’ve examined Google’s services to understand them.  I even signed up for Latitude, which gives users the ability to track where their friends are at all times with cell phones.

    It was this quest for understanding that prompted me to set up a Google Health account to see how the service works, even though I didn’t put much information in it. Here’s how Google describes the service:

    "Google Health puts you in charge of your health information. It’s safe, secure, and free."

    Then I finally noticed something that gave me pause.  Google labels Google Health as still in "beta" mode. Here is what Wikipedia says about a software’s beta version:

    "Beta testing allows the software to undergo usability testing with users who provide feedback, so that any malfunctions these users find in the software can be reported to the developers and fixed. Beta software can be unstable and could cause crashes or data loss."

    In other words Google is saying Google Health is not completely ready for prime time.  The service might work right. When something goes wrong, tell them and they will try to fix it.

    That method of software development might work fine with a search engine or email — Gmail is still in beta.  It’s not an approach that makes much sense or builds confidence with a service that’s supposed to securely store your most personal and private medical records.

    Do you think  Google CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have put all their medical records on Google Health?


    This post was written by:

    John M. Simpson

    - who has written 414 posts on Inside Google.

    Contact the author

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