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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

The Marin Independent Journal covers our kiteboarding passion

Posted by direwolff on June 11, 2008

Several of us Marin riders were recently interviewed by Andrew Pentis of the Marin Independent Journal (marinij.com). His feature just came out today, and portrays the sickness that we’re all bound by. The article is titled, “CEOs loosen ties, surf their kites at national championship on the bay”, where he humorously states:

If horse racing is the sport of kings, kiteboarding is becoming that of corporate executives – at least in the Bay Area. But Marin residents taking part in the birth of a water sport don’t sit in the stands. When it’s time to shed the suit and tie, they fly a kite on the San Francisco Bay – with an attached surfboard under their feet, powered by the offshore winds. That provides the thrill.”

It’s very cool to have the opportunity to help spread the addiction around the Bay Area :)

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U.S. Kiteboarding National Championship – Day 2!!!

Posted by direwolff on June 11, 2008

My good buddy Gabe Brown was kind enough to share some of people shots he got today at the Nationals taking place at Crissy Field…

(Damien LeRoy) (Clarissa Hempel and Chip Wasson)

(Shawn Richman) (Chip Wasson)

Noteworthy in today’s standings is that Florida boy, Damien LeRoy (Cabrinha) is and Sky Solbach (North) (who has come out from Australia and Oregon to participate in a few of the Thursday Night Cabrinha Kite Race Series events), are tied for first in leading the points race with St. Francis Yacht Club flag bearer, Shawn Richman (Waiman Kites) close at hand in 3rd place. Sky Solbach (North), who has come out from Australia and Oregon to participate in a few of the Thursday Night Cabrinha Kite Race Series events, is holding on to the number 2 spot. Here are the standings as they stand after two days:

2008 US Kiteboarding National Championship Preliminary Results – Qualification Series

Jersey # Name QR #1 QR #2 QR #3 QR #4 QR #5 QR #6 QR #7 QR #8 QR #9 QR #10 QR #11 QR #12 Total Score
Y v R W v B R v W B v Y Y v W R v B Y v R W v B R v W B v Y Y v W R v B
1 Blue 8 Damien LeRoy 2* 1 2 2 1 1 7
2 Blue 11 Sky Solbach 1 2 1 1 3* 2 7
3 Red 12 Shawn Richman 7* 1 3 1 1 3 9
4 White 3 Sean Farley 5* 2 1 3 5 1 12
5 Yellow 3 Anthony Chavez 2 3 2 8* 4 3 14
6 Blue 9 Kent Marinkovic 3 4 4 4 DNS* 4 19
7 Yellow 10 Jon Modica 5 8* 5 6 2 2 20
8 White 11 Nils Stolzlechner 6* 3 3 6 3 6 21
9 Red 6 Jeff Kafka 8* 7 5 2 2 7 23
10 Yellow 12 Jon Van Malsen 9* 5 4 4 5 5 23
11 Red 11 Marc Ramseier 3 4 7 7 6 8* 27
12 Red 4 Michael Gebhardt 1 5 9* 9 8 6 29
13 Yellow 5 John Gomes 4 7 7 5 DNS* 7 30
14 White 2 Dave Broome 7 13* 12 5 4 4 32
15 Yellow 6 Geoff Headington DNS* 6 6 3 8 14 37
16 Red 9 Donny Parker 16* 6 8 10 10 9 43
17 White 13 Chip Wasson 18* 11 9 7 7 9 43
18 Blue 1 Kristin Boese 9 9 15* 10 9 10 47
19 White 4 Melissa Gil 8 9 11 12 13* 11 51
20 Blue 4 Eric Due 11 14* 10 9 10 11 51
21 Blue 12 Ken Winner 4 DSQ* 6 8 6 DNS 52
22 Yellow 2 Christopher Brown 17* 13 8 11 12 8 52
23 White 10 Marcelo Segura 10 8 10 13 14* 12 53
24 Red 13 Frank Wittke 12 10 12 12 12 15* 58
25 Red 5 Steve Gibson 15* 14 11 14 9 14 62
26 Yellow 7 Clarissa Hempel 6 10 13 DNS* 7 DNS 64
27 Red 10 Sandy Parker 10 12 18* 16 15 13 66
28 Blue 5 Eric Geleynse 14 15 17* 14 13 12 68
29 Yellow 8 Bret Herscher 11 16 16 13 14 DNS* 70
30 Blue 13 Kris Youngberg 15 13 19* 15 11 16 70
31 White 5 Mo Hart DNS* DNS 15 11 11 13 78
32 Yellow 13 Arnaud Vuillermet 18 12 14 DNS* DNS 10 82
33 Red 3 Caroline Freitas 13 15 13 15 DNS* DNS 84
34 Yellow 9 Bruce Johnson 19 17 18 17 16 DNS* 87
35 Yellow 11 Brendan Richards 14 11 17 DNS* DNS DNS 98
36 White 6 Ella Johnson DNF DNS* 19 16 16 DNS 107
37 Blue 14 Shawn Murray DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS 5 117
38 Red 1 Vladimir Belinsky DNF DNS* 14 19 DNF DNS 117
39 White 14 Peter Schiebel 13 DNF DNS* DNS DNS DNS 125
40 Red 14 Vlad Morozz DNS* DNF 16 DNS DNS DNS 128
41 Yellow 4 James Donaldson DNS* DNS DNS 18 DNS DNS 130
42 White 7 Erin Loscocco DNS* DNS 20 DNS DNS DNS 132
43 Blue 10 Michael Scott DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
44 Blue 2 Steph Bridge DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
45 Blue 3 Raymond Deiter DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
46 Blue 6 Bobby Hall DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
47 Blue 7 Lance Larivee DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
48 Red 15 Ryan Lamb DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
49 Red 2 Shawn Ewing DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
50 Red 7 Jeffrey Klein DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
51 White 1 Darren Bass DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
52 White 12 Jason Trupkin DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140
53 White 8 Jeffrey Ruoss DNS* DNS DNS DNS DNS DNS 140

Of our Bay Area past top place finishers, Anthony Chavez (Naish) currently sits in 5th place, Jeff Kafka (Cabrinha) is in 9th place, and Chip Wasson (Ozone) is in a very surprising 17th place due to having missed a race as a result of some equipment changes he had to make.

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Kiteboarding Nationals 2008 – “Let’s get it on!”

Posted by direwolff on June 10, 2008

Some good coverage and shots of the start of the U.S. Kiteboarding Nationals on the SFGate site today. Unlike last year, it really looks like the weather is cooperating right from the get-go, as you’ll see from the pictures in the SF Gate article, the sun and win are ON!

Good to see some of the local kiters, like Chip Wasson, Jeff Kafka, and race organizer John Gomes, get mentioned in the article. John Gomes deserves special kudos as the driving force behind this event. Fortunately, he put together an excellent support committee to help him pull all of this off. It’s great when a plan comes together :)

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Conceptual Kite Driven Watercraft

Posted by direwolff on June 8, 2008

A friend just pointed me to this new concept watercraft…

You can check out more pictures of this kite driven watercraft here.

After looking at all the pictures and understanding more or less how it works, I’m in a bit of a quandary trying to figure out where the fun part is.  OK, so the kite is pulling me at speed, say 15-25 kts and I dive the watercraft below the surface which then automatically resurfaces.  All this while sitting on it like a high speed motorcycle.  It’s clear that I’m missing something because I just don’t get it.  I’d rather be kiting.  If getting submerged is the fun part, that’s pretty easy to pull off with a body drag.  Buying what will surely be an expensive toy to get the sensation I can get without that just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.  Oh well.  My bigger question is how does the kite get relaunched if it falls from the sky?  That should be interesting.

This seems like a craft better left in the conceptual stage.

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RONSTAN Bay Challenge – Kite Class: A good time had by all

Posted by direwolff on June 1, 2008

The Kite Class of the RONSTAN Bay Challenge was very exciting. There’s also a Formula Windsurfing Class, but as a participant in the kitesurfing race, it’s tough to keep up with the windsurfing action since they start the race 5 minutes before us and go much faster. Special thanks shout out to both the St. Francis Yacht Club race committee for managing this event and all of the volunteers who participated in the effort. Also, thanks to RONSTAN for their long time support of such a great event.

The event is broken down into two days, with the first being the long distance race which goes from Crissy Field, west towards the Golden Gate Bridge approximately a half mile to a windward mark, then back down wind (east) all the way to Berkeley for the leeward mark, then back up the St. Francis Yacht Club for the finish. The weather was very uncooperative with light winds under 20 kts for the down wind leg, and foggy skies the whole race. The upwind leg showed signs of life with winds ranging up to the low 20 kts.

There were lots of choices to be made in terms of how best to reach Berkeley and the different strategies paid off in different ways. The top three racers split at Alcatraz with one of the favorites, Shawn Richman, staying close to Angel Island the whole way down, while Chip Wasson and Anthony Chavez stayed on the city front side. Shawn’s down wind strategy paid off in spades giving him what seemed like an early 1 to 2 mile lead by the time he crossed the Berkeley marker. Nils Stolzlechner and John Gomes like Shawn, also went down on the north side of Alcatraz and were eventually joined by Chip and Anthony rounding the leeward mark. At this point, Shawn’s board became a hindrance and Chip, Nils and John were all able to catch him on the up wind leg between Berkeley and the St. Francis Yacht Club finish line to claim 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ahead of Shawn’s 4th place and Anthony’s close 5th place finish. The standings for Saturday’s race are as follows:

Overall
Position Skipper Finish Time
1. Chip Wasson 14:22:32.0
2. Nils Stolzlechner 14:25:24.0
3. John Gomes 14:27:07.0
4. Shawn Richman 14:30:57.0
5. Anthony Chavez 14:32:34.0
6. Chris Brown 14:37:29.0
7. Pierre Wolff (me) 14:41:00.0
8. Bret Herscher 14:45:03.0
9. Steve Gibson 14:45:14.0
10. Gabe Brown 14:56:41.0
11. Vlad Moroz 15:06:47.0
12. Tim Jackson 15:21:23.0
DNF Bill Kiriakis
DNS Raymond Dieter

Start Time was 13:10:00.0
DNF = Did Not Finish
DNS = Did Not Start

Bill Kiriakis who got a DNF had actually passed both Chris Brown and I on the upwind leg but suffered a fallen kite incident from which he could not recover as we passed by him. Sadly, he was only 4 reaches away from the finish line. Also noteworthy is that the top 3 finishers were all using boards designed and built by Nils.

While I had been advised that we might get strong winds on the way back up wind, I still elected to ride the Eclipse 14m Thruster and didn’t regret it one bit. It was nicely powered on the way back only requiring me to sheet in 1/3 of the way a couple of times, and provided plenty of kick on the down wind leg to even pass a couple of the racers around me.

Sunday brought the course racing legs of the RONSTAN Bay Challenge. This consisted of three races encompassing two laps each with markers that went from Crissy Field to approximately a quarter mile from the Golden Gate Bridge. Starting position is key to doing well in this race and it’s very tricky timing. This is similar to the Thursday Night Cabrinha Race Series most of us also participate in, so the riders were all experienced racers.

This event was dominated by the three favorites, Shawn Richman (19 year old kitesurfing prodigy who moved from Maui to attend U.C. Santa Cruz), Anthony Chavez and Chip Wasson. These three riders took turns at coming in 1st, 2nd or 3rd, with Shawn getting two wins and a 2nd place to win the overall event, Anthony taking 2nd, 3rd and 1st place finishes, while Chip took in 3rd, 2nd and 3rd place finishes. It certainly seemed like Shawn was riding with a mission after having been caught from behind in the previous day’s long distance event.

The Standings for Sunday’s course races were as follows:

Overall
Position Skipper Race 1 | Race 2 | Race 3
1. Shawn Richman 1 | 1 | 2
2. Anthony Chavez 2 | 3 | 1
3. Chip Wasson 3 | 2 | 3
4. John Gomes 6 | 5 | 4
5. Nils Stolzlechner 4 | 6 | 7
6. Bill Kiriakis 5 | 7 | 5
7. Pierre Wolff (me) 10 | 4 | 6
8. Bret Herscher 9 | 8 | 9
9. Steve Gibson 8 | 9 | 10
10. Geoff Headington 7 | DNF | 8
11. Tim Jackson 12 | 10 | 11
12. Raymond Dieter 11 | 11 | 12

The winds were howling at 25-27 kts accompanied by an ebb tide which made for perfect racing conditions. General strategy on where to make jibes played a major role in these races as well as the impact of small mistakes like falling off one’s board during a jibe, or spacing out and missing the location of the finish line altogether, as happened to me in the first race in what led to my 10th place finish…d’oh! Where some riders dominated on the up wind legs, others had a clear advantage on the down wind legs. When all is said and done, everyone had an enjoyable time racing under sunny skies.

For this race, I tried to go with the Eclipse 12m Thruster, but the winds were just too overpowering and since my 10m has yet to arrive, I settled into my 10m Best Bularoo which worked like a charm in what was sometimes very gusty conditions. Something about the nice long throw on the Bularoo bar which really opens up the range of this kite.

After the races, Bill our other friend Charlie, who unfortunately couldn’t race due to an arm injury that he’s allowing himself to heal from, and I went out under the Golden Gate Bridge to catch shoulder high swell. Steady rollers going from the top of the south tower down to the east side of the north tower. Amazingly well shaped swell. We lasted about 45 minutes before yelling “uncle” as our legs were mush from close to two hours of racing followed by this surfing session. Nice way to end the weekend :)

*** Update 6/2/08 @ 9:05am: There was a photographer on the start boat named Sergei Zavarin who took a bunch of pictures of the event. Unfortunately, because they’re for sale I can’t link to them, but you can view them for free on his SmugMug page at http://ultimate-yachtshots.smugmug.com/?preview=1.

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Eclipse Kites, a layman’s review

Posted by direwolff on May 28, 2008

This past Saturday, my buddy Charlie and I had a chance to borrow and ride our friend Gabe’s Eclipse Thruster 14m and Eclipse Nano 12m kites back to back, with a third session on our respective mainstay kites, which for me is the Best Bularoo ’07 10m. Oh yeah, and made a new friend along the way. But first, the kites.

I started on the Thruster at around 2:25pm in what were relatively low winds for Crissy Field on a flood tide. Here’s what the day’s wind graph looked like:

The 14m Thruster handled these conditions like a champ (note the dip to an average of below 10 kts at around 2:40pm). It felt powered the whole ride, and at times even went into near over-powered situations in the gusts (hard to tell from the graph above, but the other side of the Bay is quite a bit more powered than where the meter readings are coming from). The Thruster stays further ahead of the window and was just pulling me ahead faster rather than off the edge of the directional board as the Bularoo tends to do when over powered. So long as I kept a good streamlined body position and handled the speed it never felt like there would be a need to downwind to slow down. For the Cabrinha Race Series at Crissy Field, this kite is going to be very interesting. The kite also wanted to be moved to avoid allowing it to get into its low-end. Moving the kite created tremendous effective wind and I never felt that it would drop out of the sky on the heavy lulls we experienced. The low-end did feel a bit weaker and less stable than my Bularoo, but I attribute this more to the higher aspect ratio of this kite.

After about 40-45 minutes, Charlie and I switched kites. The Nano is a completely different type of kite. First off, it’s much more medium-to-low aspect, which is quickly noticeable by its profile. The Nano is considered Eclipse’s true wave kite and for good reason. The turning speed on this kite was unreal and the effective wind it generates was significantly more powerful than the Thruster’s. It feels like it’s always ready for a fast turn, to the point that it’s a bit twitchy for my style of riding and in the locations that I frequent. I do enjoy riding waves a lot, but unlike the serious wave riders, I still prefer a more stable kite that I don’t have to move as much. Having said that, it was amazing how a 12m kite was just as powerful as a 14m of a different design. Lest you think this has something to do with the Eclipse riding small, another friend was out on his 14m Ocean Rodeo Rise and he was just as powered as we were on the Thruster.

If I was going to start to do more strapless wave riding and was a regular stance rider, the Nano would probably be the smarter kite to ride, but as a goofy footer who likes to use a seat harness and gets a little lazy, the stability of the Thruster is much more welcomed.

As the winds picked up, Charlie and I moved back to our smaller kites. The big difference I could feel (besides the obvious size differences), was that the Bullie a bit more stable, but would quickly loose ground on an upwind tack compared to the Thruster. Actually, when Charlie, whom I can easily out upwind because of my quad fin board, was leaving me in the dust when he was on the Thruster and I was on the Nano. He had at least a 2 to 5 degree advantage which may not make much of a difference over a few feet, but makes a heck of a difference over a quarter or half mile reach. I’m really looking forward to trying the 10m Thruster and experience the combination of its smaller kite turning speed with its upwindability.

The one significant down side I see with the Eclipse kites is their bar, in two regards. First, the throw is very short relative to the Best bars. What’s nice about the long throw is that you can dump 100% of the power which is very handy in strong gusty conditions which we often have to deal with in the Bay area. Second, the locking device to shorten the throw is very clumsy. Best and Slingshot long ago figured out a very simple stopper system that can be moved with one hand under most circumstances. The Eclipse mechanism requires more steps than should be necessary. While the shorter throw would normally be a big issue to me, with the kite upwinding as it does, I’m confident that it’s just a matter of getting used to this because I shouldn’t get yanked off my edge in the direction the kite pulls.

Now for my new acquaintance. As I was walking to my car after the cold Crissy Field shower, I saw this guy that looked familiar but couldn’t place him. And then it struck me. Several friends (most recently fellow Seesmic co-conspirator, Cathy Brooks) had mentioned to me that the well known international blogger Loic Le Meur of Le Web and Seesmic fame was a kiteboarder at Crissy, but for some reason we had never run into each other. Well, that all changed on Saturday. We had actually been riding near each other for part of our last session, so conversation was easy and pretty much kiting oriented. Put two kiters in the same room and no matter what they do outside of this sport will remain a mystery to by-standers as all they will talk about is the latest session…or the one before that. It was no different between us that day :) As an ol’ hand on the Bay area kiting scene I was able to share some of the webcam links we use to track local conditions. You’ll see these now appearing on his del.icio.us page. Always fun to meet a fellow addict, and it’s clear that Loic fits that bill well.

*** Update 5/28/08, late evening: Forgot to mention that I was so psyched after riding the Thruster that I ordered 10 & 14m kites.  Can’t wait to ride’em :)

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Surprise, surprise…NOT!

Posted by direwolff on May 28, 2008

What kills me about the following story that’s now making it’s way through the press, is how obvious the deceptions were while they were happening (except apparently to the folks in the Red States and the mainstream media), but it takes this book for every one to now believe it.  If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, it’s former White House press secretary, Scott McClellan‘s upcoming book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception“.

You can read about some of the juicy tidbits in this Washington Post article:

Ex-Press Aide Writes That Bush Misled U.S. on Iraq

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 28, 2008; A01

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that the Iraq war was sold to the American people with a sophisticated “political propaganda campaign” led by President Bush and aimed at “manipulating sources of public opinion” and “downplaying the major reason for going to war.”

McClellan includes the charges in a 341-page book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” that delivers a harsh look at the White House and the man he served for close to a decade. He describes Bush as demonstrating a “lack of inquisitiveness,” says the White House operated in “permanent campaign” mode, and admits to having been deceived by some in the president’s inner circle about the leak of a CIA operative’s name.

I wonder if any country or our own Congress will have the guts to call for war crimes trials against this administration once they’re out of office.  Come on, who am I kidding.

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U.S. Kiteboarding Nationals are COMING!!!

Posted by direwolff on May 23, 2008

Yee-ha, can’t wait!!!

June 9th through June 15th 2008, San Francisco will be the lucky host of the U.S. Kiteboarding National Championships – 2008.  Should be very exciting with team riders flying in from all over the world to participate in the excitement.  Crissy Field will be where it all goes down.  Whether you’re enthusiast or just curious, come down to check out the pagentry of this event.  For registration information you can check out: http://www.uskitenationals.com.

There will also be parties in the evenings where all are welcome.

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RONSTAN Bay Challenge – St. Francis Yacht Club

Posted by direwolff on May 22, 2008

RONSTAN Bay Challenge
St. Francis Yacht Club
May 31-June 1, 2008
NOTICE OF RACE

1.0 RULES
1.1 The regatta will be governed by the rules as defined in The Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS), except as any of these are altered by the Sailing Instructions.
1.2 All competitors are required to wear a wetsuit at all times while racing.
1.3 Competitors in the Formula class must display sail numbers on both sides of all sails.
1.4 Competitors in the Kite class must wear a numbered jersey.

2.0 ELIGIBILITY AND ENTRY
2.1 The following classes are invited to participate: Kite and Formula.
2.2 Eligible boats may enter by completing the online registration form located at www.stfyc.com.
2.3 Fleets must have six boats registered by the entry deadline to qualify for a class start.

3.0 FEES
3.1 Entry fee is $85, less $5 with proof of current USSA or USWA membership, if received by May 28, 2008.
3.2 Entry fee is $95, less $5 with proof of current USSA or USWA membership, if received after May 28, 2008.

4.0 SCHEDULE
4.1 Late Registration: Saturday, May 31 from 1000 hours to 1030 hours.
4.2 Racing will be held Saturday, May 31 & Sunday, June 1.
4.3 The scheduled time of the Warning Signal for the first race each day is 1130 hours. A Sailors’ Meeting will be held at 1030 hours on Saturday, May 31.
4.4 Sailors and their guests are welcome to attend a social on Saturday night and a trophy ceremony following the conclusion of racing on Sunday.

5.0 SAILING INSTRUCTIONS
The Sailing Instructions will be available at the check-in before the Sailors’ Meeting, while an unofficial copy may be found on the St. Francis Yacht Club web site by Thursday, May 29.

6.0 RACING AREA
The intended course racing area will be set on the City Front utilizing inflatable marks. The intended area for the distance race will be from the City Front to the Berkeley Pier and back for some classes.

7.0 SCORING
7.1 One race shall constitute a series.
7.2 Kite and Formula classes will sail one distance race on Saturday, and three course races on Sunday. The distance race will be scored separately from the course racing. All course races will count towards a boats final course racing score.

8.0 BERTHING
If you plan on leaving a trailer in the City parking lot prior to Saturday morning or overnight on Sunday, please contact the Harbor Master’s Office 415-292-2013 for an overnight parking permit. All trailers will be towed without a city permit. On Saturday night, all trailers must be stored at the direction of the St. Francis Yacht Club Dock Master. Competitors are responsible for their own board and gear storage.

9.0 DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY
Competitors participate in the regatta entirely at their own risk. See rule 4, decision to race. The organizing authority will not accept any liability for material damage or personal injury or death sustained in conjunction with or prior to, during, or after the regatta.

10.0 FURTHER INFORMATION
For further information please contact the St Francis Yacht Club race office at 415.563.6363, email raceoffice@stfyc.com , or visit www.stfyc.com .

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Google Health…the start of a dangerous precedent

Posted by direwolff on May 19, 2008

Just caught VentureBeat’s post on the release of Google Health which naturally lead me to go check it out. I was greeted by a login screen, and so my “Spidey senses” started tingling. First off I welcome the idea of a vertically focused search service for health issues. As an advisor to Healia, which was recently acquired by Meredith Corporation, I learned to appreciate the value and the challenges in a vertically focused search service for health matters. What was nice about Healia is that I didn’t have to identify myself to gain a tremendous amount of value. Should I want to get more involved, the ability to join health communities was there and enabled me to self-identify with a health matter and pursue several types of activities. However, the ability to pursue certain activities anonymously was always there.

Google Health, by asking me to sign-in (since I’m a user of other Google services) or register if I’m new to Google services and they don’t find a cookie, is now able to track my use of the service (which presumably includes my searches) and associate these to my registered e-mail address. Imagine I search for something that has nothing to do with any medical condition I have, but perhaps is something my mother is suffering from, does this mean that that information gets correlated to me? Not sure, but it’s not a stretch to think that some of Google’s behavioral and contextual analysis technology would make this association. How long will it be before the insurance industry catches up to this and begins to require that I provide them access to this information if I want to get medical or life insurance? Again, not sure, but it’s not a stretch to see this possibility.

In reading the Google Health Privacy Policy there was a reference to Google’s standard Privacy Policy. Specifically interesting is the section below on Information Sharing:

Information sharing

Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following limited circumstances:

We have your consent. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.

We provide such information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies or other trusted businesses or persons for the purpose of processing personal information on our behalf. We require that these parties agree to process such information based on our instructions and in compliance with this Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.

We have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, (b) enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, or (d) protect against imminent harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.

If Google becomes involved in a merger, acquisition, or any form of sale of some or all of its assets, we will provide notice before personal information is transferred and becomes subject to a different privacy policy.

We may share with third parties certain pieces of aggregated, non-personal information, such as the number of users who searched for a particular term, for example, or how many users clicked on a particular advertisement. Such information does not identify you individually.

Please contact us at the address below for any additional questions about the management or use of personal data.

What this basically communicates to me, is that there are situations in which Google will share my information that may be at odds with my desire to have this information shared. While it’s entirely understandable why legally they need to lay out these terms, enforcing them comes at their discretion whether or not they are right in doing so. The only person who suffers in those situations is me, or us should this apply to many people. While my general surfing habits are one thing, when we get into medical situations I believe this could create a challenging situation for all of us to be in.

Yes, it’s great that they are providing us a place to aggregate and manage our medical information, and yes it’s nice to be able to correlate this to helpful information and possible helpful diagnosis on our ailments. It’s even nice to get information on how medications may interact adversely, or even be able to re-order medications easily and find local suppliers. But at the risk of sounding like a luddite, the trade-off of the greater dangers of centralizing this information for government use or for institutional use, specifically those of the insurance industry, is totally not worth it and a slippery road we go down if people begin to adopt the use of this service.

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