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Edward Snowden is categorical that the Health Data Hub puts our personal data at risk

On May 19, Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who became famous after his revelations about the NSA, wanted to draw the attention of the French to the government’s desire to entrust citizens’ health data to Microsoft through Health Data Hub. If the project aimed to improve the care of patients during the health crisis, it could also threaten the confidentiality of our fellow citizens.

The Health Data Hub: a project that threatens the confidentiality of our personal data

The Health Data Hub was created on November 30, 2019, the day before the discovery of the first case of COVID-19 in China. Very quickly, the Health Data Platform (PDS) was at the center of all attention. However, certain aspects of the project quickly aroused concern among data protection professionals.

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Indeed, Microsoft, the host of this system, could be obliged to deliver confidential data to the American authorities. A possibility that Edward Snowden wanted to remind individuals and the competent authorities in his tweet of May 19.

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It is in particular out of fear of such a scenario that the American government has gone on a crusade against Huawei. However, as part of the Health Data Hub project, French health services must deliver patient health data to Microsoft through the American firm’s cloud service.

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This obligation concerns pharmacies, community doctors, hospitals as well as all services and applications responsible for providing remote consultations. Data from the National Health Data System (SNDS) will also be subject to the same processing.

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Although this initiative could improve the French health system in the long term, it may constitute a violation of the rights of French people over their data. By allowing an American fir to store the personal data of its citizens, the French state consents to Washington consulting the medical records of its entire population.

CloudAct: at the heart of the controversy

Note in fact that the CloudAct law authorizes the United States to access resources held by Cloud service providers whose headquarters are on American soil. Although this system has been designed to react to specific situations such as a computer attack for example, the competent authorities can exercise this right by simply notifying the company concerned. In addition, this procedure remains possible even if the Data center is located outside the United States.

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Aware of this situation, the president of the CNIL, Marie-Laure Denis, already affirmed that the CloudAct constituted a violation of the founding principles of the GDPR. This is why the CNIL suggested from the start that the database from Health Data Hub be managed by a French or European company.

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After considering suspending the project, the Council of State ultimately maintained Microsoft as host of the Health Data Hub data. However, this administrative court wanted to clarify that the American firm and ministerial services must put in place solutions to preserve patient confidentiality. In addition, the competent authorities recalled that the agreement signed with Microsoft prohibits the company from any transfer of data to the United States.