This secretive project could be the real reason Google bought Fitbit

When Google announced it had reached an agreement to purchase Fitbit, many observers thought was a sign the search giant was finally getting serious about wearable technology.

However, a deeply concerning Wall Street Journal report today lends credence to the other school of thought: That the $2.1 billion expenditure wasn’t about catching the Apple Watch and more about owning the juicy health and fitness data provided by the vast community of Fitbit users.

The WSJ report claims to lift the lid on a secret Google project that is reportedly hoarding the health details of millions of Americans without the knowledge or permission of doctors and patients.

Related: Best smartwatch

According to the exclusive report, the sources say Project Nightingale has amassed patient records in 21 states, courtesy of the Ascension health system in the United States – which is the second largest in the country. The report says the Google has racked up:

The data involved in Project Nightingale encompasses lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.

The sources say patients are yet to discover the company has access to the details, which have been seen by up to 150 Google, Alphabet and the Google Brain research division employees.

So what does Google want with all of this data? According to those familiar with the matter, Google’s parent company Alphabet is building an AI-based software that can be used to proactively suggest changes to the patient’s care.

We have reached out to Google for comment on the story. It responded to the Wall Street Journal report saying Nightingale is compliant with all US federal laws and health regulations.

Google isn’t the only tech giant seeking to make strides in the healthcare industry, with Apple, Amazon and Microsoft all making inroads. Should we be concerned about this, or can AI solutions improve the healthcare system? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor