Google’s parent abandoned plans to develop a “smart city” in a Toronto neighborhood, a controversial project that once embodied the tech giant’s futuristic ambitions. The move is the highest-profile example yet of retrenchment by Alphabet under new Chief Executive Sundar Pichai. The Toronto project, under Alphabet arm Sidewalk Labs, was a favorite of Google co-founder Larry Page, who held the CEO role until December. Sidewalk Labs cited economic uncertainty and pressure on the local real-estate market in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Google has struck partnerships with some of the country’s largest hospital systems and most-renowned health-care providers, many of them vast in scope and few of their details previously reported. In just a few years, the company has achieved the ability to view or analyze tens of millions of patient health records in at least three-quarters of US states. In certain instances, the deals allow Google to access personally identifiable health information without the knowledge of patients or doctors.
Google’s co-founders stepped down from their active management roles at the internet giant, surrendering further control at a potential inflection point for the company. Billionaires Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who had been chief executive and president, respectfully, of Google parent Alphabet Inc., said they would hand control immediately to Sundar Pichai, Google’s existing CEO. The duo are hardly giving up their influence. They remain on Alphabet’s board and together control a majority of voting power over company decisions under Alphabet’s dual-class share structure.
Google is teaming with one of the country’s largest health-care systems on a secret project to collect and crunch the detailed personal health information of millions of Americans across 21 states. The initiative, code-named “Project Nightingale,” appears to be the largest in a series of efforts by Silicon Valley giants to gain access to personal health data and establish a toehold in the massive health-care industry. Google launched the effort in 2018 with Ascension, the country’s second-largest health system.