Google is showing interest in becoming the provider of people's electronic health record. It's an interesting idea, but the ramifications of the U.S. Patriot Act are probably unacceptable to the vast majority of people who think about the privacy of their health record.

Basically, the Patriot Act gives the U.S. Government the right to look at any data in any computer in the United States, and they don't have to tell anyone they're looking at it. In fact, it's a crime to tell anyone their data was looked at. This basically violates any privacy legislation in any country that has such a thing. You need to give permission to anyone to look at your data, and you need to be informed if someone looks at your data for any reason.

In healthcare IT here in Canada we now live with the fact that healthcare data about Canadians can't be stored in or even pass through the United States. At least we can build an electronic health record. We just have to keep the data in Canada. Thanks to the Patriot Act, Americans may miss out on a great chance to improve their health.

(There might be an opportunity for enterprising Canadians to host the U.S. electronic health record, but if I recall correctly HIPAA says you can't store U.S. healthcare data outside the U.S.)