Coronavirus Update: Alphabet Project May Have Privacy Concerns; More Scams May Loom With Gov Payments

Coronavirus update

Google’s attempts to aid the world during the outbreak of the coronavirus could have privacy concerns, according to some U.S. senators.

The new site, created by Google parent Alphabet’s life sciences arm Verily, offers a questionnaire to help people find out simply and quickly if they qualify for the COVID-19 test to see if they have the virus.

The test has been a hassle for Americans due to low numbers of tests available and strict guidelines on who is allowed to take the tests.

But several senators raised concerns with that. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Kamala Harris of California all wrote letters addressed to Vice President Mike Pence and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai expressing concerns about cybersecurity.

To use Verily’s new site, rolled out as a pilot on Sunday in California, users have to have a Google account and agree for some information to potentially be shared. Therein lay the senators’ concerns. They wrote that the site, while well-intentioned, seemed unclear as to who would be responsible for the information provided by ordinary citizens and when it would be launched.

Google’s potential involvement worried the senators because of the search engine giant’s involvement with the “Project Nightingale” project from last year, when the company was involved with Ascension Health in dealing with millions of people’s personal health data.

In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has proven fertile ground for hungry scammers. Now, officials worry they could potentially take advantage of governmental plans to provide financial relief to individual Americans out of work due to the virus.

Jennifer Leach, associate director of the Division of Consumer and Business Education at the Federal Trade Commission, wrote a blog post predicting that scammers could try and pose as official entities to wrench money out of victims.

Leach laid it out clearly: the government would not ask for any payment to access the funds. The government wouldn’t ask for one’s Social Security Number, bank account or credit card information in order to access the funds.

And as the proposed financial aid has not been finalized yet, anyone saying they can help get the money now is lying and likely has their own nefarious aims, Leach wrote.



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