By Paresh Dave
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Google sister company Verily launched a website late on Sunday that invites adults in northern California to answer questions about their recent health and travel that could result in their getting a free coronavirus test.
U.S. President Donald Trump had thanked Google on Friday for developing a website that he said would help people determine whether they needed a coronavirus test.
Verily, a health care technology company owned by Alphabet Inc, said it worked with some employees at fellow Alphabet unit Google, to develop the new website. https://www.projectbaseline.com/study/covid-19
The website states Verily is working “with the California governor’s office to direct high-risk individuals to newly-launched testing centers in San Mateo and Santa Clara” counties, sometimes by calling those users directly to set testing appointments.
People showing symptoms of the flu-like virus are meant to seek medical care, rather than a test through Verily’s system, the company said.
Verily did not respond to request for comment on user activity on the website in its first few hours.
More than 174,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus and over 6,700 people have died from the disease it causes, COVID-19.
Verily said people’s survey responses would be kept in an encrypted Google database, access to which is restricted and monitored. The data would be shared with healthcare authorities but would never be “joined with your data stored in Google products without your explicit permission,” Verily said.
In addition, Verily said user-submitted data would be used for research purposes only with permission, though it may ask for that permission in the future.
Making a Google account mandatory to use the website drew some criticism on social media. Verily engineer Ryan Seys responded to one of the critical posts by writing on Twitter that “we’re trying to make real impact out here in this time of crisis.”
(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Lisa Shumaker)