Magazine article Information Today

Privacy Issues, Healthcare Info, and Vertical Search Top the News

Magazine article Information Today

Privacy Issues, Healthcare Info, and Vertical Search Top the News

Article excerpt

I came across a real shocker when I was working on this column in late April: The Social Security numbers of thousands of people have been disclosed for years in a publicly available database from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, which makes the database available on its online service called FedSpending. org, said this was "gross negligence on the part of the federal government." That actually might be too mild a statement.

But there's more. The database is several decades old, and, according to reports, thousands of copies of the database exist. It makes me wonder how much other personal information government officials have been negligent with over the years. When will government agencies at all levels--and companies and educational institutions--take the protection of personal information seriously?

Healthcare Info Update

In my NewsLink Spotlight article for March, I observed that the online health space has been heating up. I discussed some interesting new vertical search resources, such as,'s new SymptomSearch, Revolution Health, and TauMed. Since then, bigger players have started to move into the space.

Microsoft has acquired Medstory, a vertical search engine for health information. In making the announcement, Microsoft stated: "The acquisition represents a strategic move for Microsoft in the consumer health search arena and signals a long-term commitment toward the development of a broader consumer health strategy. Medstory employees will join the Health Solutions Group, a recently formed division at Microsoft that will manage product development and delivery."

The Medstory search site, which is still in beta, is worth a look. It offers results in useful categories to drill down, lets users toggle between consumer and research information, and clearly labels types of sources, such as clinical trials.

Last year, Microsoft acquired the health intelligence software vendor Azyxxi. The application, created using Microsoft development tools, brings together all types of patient data from hundreds of sources and makes it all instantly available at the point of care. After this acquisition, Microsoft created its health solutions group.

And in an interesting post in the ZDNet blog, Mary Jo Foley said there are "rumors that Microsoft is readying Windows-Live-like services specific to the healthcare market, aimed at both individuals and businesses ... some of which could be free and ad-supported, and others of which could be paid and subscription-based." (See the post What's really behind Microsoft's healthcare push? at http://blogs.zd

Google doesn't (yet) have a vertical Web search offering available, but a recent posting on the official Google blog by vice president Adam Bosworth indicates Google is serious about providing something ( 2007/03/how-do-you-know-youre-gettingbestcare.html). It does offer a health category within the Google Directory search (one of those products hidden behind the "more" option).

Healthline Networks recently announced that its full suite of Medically Guided Search of navigation and content services is now available on the U.S. News & World Report Web site, The partnership marks the latest in a series of health information technology deployments by Healthline with publishers, Web content portals, search engines, and health plan providers.

After 3 months in preview mode, the Revolution Health Group (founded by Steve Case) formally launched, designed to be a comprehensive health and medical information portal. The company also announced the acquisition of TLContact, Inc., the company that provides, a free service for building online communities that support communication among family and friends when someone is receiving care. …

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