Getting you up to speed with all the latest in the Catching up

Google breaches the final frontier of sensitive data

Google reached new heights in the respect of data privacy recently by harvesting the medical records of over 50 million Americans without their consent. In a business partnership between Google and Ascension, a major hospital chain and second-largest healthcare provider in the US, the tech giant managed to gain the treasure trove of records without the knowledge or consent of the patients. More importantly, the data was not de-identified (anonymised by removing all personal information), i.e. it has the patients’ full personal details including name and medical history which can now be accessed by Google staff.

Ascension, a Catholic network of 2,600 hospitals, clinics and other medical outlets across the United States said the partnership was in compliance with the US data privacy act HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which safeguards medical information.

Nevertheless, the Google Cloud CEO, Thomas Kurian, has stated that his priority in his first year on the job is to aggressively chase business in the healthcare industry. The company has spent several years developing artificial intelligence that it claims will automatically analyse patient data to identify and prevent diseases. Although Google Cloud told the Wall Street Journal that the aim was to “ultimately improve outcomes, reducing costs, and saving lives”, it is doubtful whether the majority of patients would feel comfortable knowing their data was being haphazardly transferred to Google without the proper safeguards and security in place.

Amnesty says Google and Facebook are a threat to human rights

Amnesty International has attacked Google and Facebook’s business models accusing them of being ‘surveillance-based’. In a recent report, Amnesty argues that the profitability of the tech giants depends on constant surveillance – gathering huge amounts of personal data on their users, building up detailed profiles of individuals and groups, and selling access to advertisers.

Amnesty highlighted the fact that Facebook and Google run continuous analysis and accumulation of information about people and argued that this is surveillance. They also don’t charge for their services but rely on people effectively handing over their data as a hidden kind of payment. The two firms can collect a wealth of highly detailed data, meaning they can reasonably be claimed to know more about individuals than the individuals do about themselves. They are also able to analyse and predict people’s habits and behaviour. All this with the aim of selling access to this information to anyone who wishes to target a particular group of people – thereby allowing advertisers to efficiently target people online.

If you’re involved in web analytics, you’re probably better off with an independent European GDPR-compliant solution.

Staying on the front line of tomorrow’s media challenges

The advent of digital technology has led to a rapid acceleration in the production of information. So how do players in the industry stay ahead of the game and respond to the exponential acceleration of the information age? Cyrille Frank, founder of deep dives into the media challenges of the future (here in French).

The emergence of new media has brought in a myriad of new formats that are more visual (slideshows, videos, data-visualisations), more interactive (quizzes, newsgames, co-constructed articles), and more responsive (direct, fact-checking), or even a mixture of all these with ‘Stories’, a format in vogue on social networks.

Digital transformation is a process that will not stop. It is therefore essential to set up long-term support systems. Beyond the skills required today, it is vital to push skills and attitudes that promote flexibility, adaptability and autonomy for learners. This requires a more varied, more operational and more reflexive approach.

Google to restrict ad data-sharing

From February 2020, Google will remove advertisers’ access to users’ “contextual” information. Contextual user data is qualitative information such as a user’s interests, as opposed to their socio-demographic profile (SDP). Read the article here in French. Although the tech giant says it wants to better protect Internet users’ personal data, some advertisers are calling it a sudden move that will in fact strengthen Google’s dominance in online advertising. “Under the guise of wanting to strengthen users’ private data, Google is closing access to its system and serving its own interests,” said Jean-Luc Chetrit, General Manager of the French ‘Union de Marques’.

By limiting the amount of data available at auctions, Google is looking to regain control of the market, at a time when its advertising revenues are growing at a slower pace than its other sources of revenue. Google has its own DSPs, which will still be able to access contextual information.

While strengthening its own ecosystem, the American giant is also trying to cover itself while under the gaze of the Irish Data Protection Commission who is currently investigating how Google’s Ad Exchange platform complies with the European GDPR. Business as usual then… 

The wider issues of Big Brother

Facial recognition technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years – which has raised the question of its ethical place in society (article here in French). In the US, there has been a range of initiatives to ban its use, not only by the police but across a range of sectors.

The digital rights group, Fight for the Future, has launched campaigns against the use of facial recognition by airlines or at music festivals and concerts (including the Blink Identity project), as well as its use in shops and shopping malls etc. who are starting to equip themselves with these technologies to filter their audiences.

However, the question remains: Is there a good and a bad facial recognition? In terms of the imminent approach of AI and ubiquitous facial recognition, perhaps we should be asking more fundamental questions: Do we really want to allow companies to put people’s specific characteristics, appearance and face in a database? Do we want to make anonymity impossible? Do we want to make the surveillance complete?


What’s the difference between Yoda and an amazing analytics leader? Multimedia analytics publisher Corsair has uncovered some Jedi mind tricks in the run-up to Episode IX. Aware that in analytics, many forms can the dark side take, and that it is principles, discipline, and experience that a powerful analyst values. A game-changing approach to analytics are you searching for? Get ready to unlearn what you have learned!

Drowning in KPIs?

To round off the November edition of the Catch up, here’s a glimpse at the dangers of overloading on too many KPI’s – courtesy of the Marketoonist

dashboard cartoon on drowning in KPIs

See you next time on the Internets!



Bilingual Editorial & Translation manager (and a London boy!). An experienced BtoB and BtoC copywriter, Chris is adept at creating targeted editorial content for in-house and external comm materials, delivering key messages for websites and building strong editorial tools to capture and retain the reader. His mission is to nail down the flow of information and deliver sharp, insightful written content for AT Internet’s range of international corporate clients and company publications.

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