Why did Alphabet-Google CEO Sundar Pichai write an approximate 1,264-word post published Sunday touting Google’s efforts around “helping people find useful information” about coronavirus — then wait to describe the COVID-19 website developed by Verily Health Sciences in one small paragraph at the end?
Media reports on Friday began pointing out the differences between what the Trump administration announced and what Verily later announced in regards to a test website being built by the Alphabet subsidiary and Google sister company in relation to the COVID-19 virus.
Trump had initially built up the White House announcement as a Google project, a website where people with possible COVID-19 symptoms could fill out a form, ask questions and get information related to their symptoms. The website, a test site in the San Francisco Bay area, is being built by Verily, once a subsidiary of Google.
So what happened?
The details of the initial report were so mismanaged that it makes me wonder whether White House staff mis-briefed President Trump, he misunderstood when briefed, or he simply related Verily as a Google company, which it was until Google cofounders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, formed the holding company Alphabet In 2015 and later pulled Verily out from under Google, turning it into a sister company.
Media continues to slam the president for misrepresenting the project during a crisis in flux, but in my opinion, it’s almost a scenario of the game Telephone. Recode reported the insight came from “piecemeal information collated by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner. Recode also cites reports in The Washington Post and The New York Times on how Kushner had “asked tech executives for help in fighting the coronavirus outbreak” and how it all spiraled out of control from there.
It appears the White House has a plan, but many of the president’s claims were premature. The Washington Postreports “a White House aide said administration officials were on the phone throughout Friday with some state and local officials in virus hot spots to discuss plans for new testing locations.”
There are many more unanswered questions about the mismanagement of information, search, health or otherwise.
My concern is how much personal information people will need to enter into the Verily website to get answers during their hour of need, and how much of that information will remain anonymous. How will Verily and Google use that data in the future? The mere act of people willingly entering their personal health information into this database, especially in the state where the California Consumer Privacy Act exists, has me concerned.