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Psychologists warn Google’s depression-screening plan violates privacy and ‘may in fact do harm’

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A group of psychiatric professionals are taking exception to Google’s plan to direct users to a depression screening questionnaire when they search the words “clinical depression” on their U.S. mobile phones.

Gizmodo.com said that the search engine behemoth received plaudits last week for its program, which automatically presents users with a depression screening questionnaire, then provides users at high risk of self harm or other destructive behaviors with “links to materials from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and telephone helplines.”

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Other tech companies are looking for ways to use mobile technology to address the mental health crisis currently facing a country where counseling and other mental health services are difficult to obtain and often prohibitively expensive even for people with health insurance coverage.

“Apple recently posted a job application for programmers with psychology and counseling backgrounds in order to turn Siri into a better therapist,” wrote Gizmodo’s Kristen V. Brown. “On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first mobile app for treating substance abuse—an app from Pear Therapeutics originally designed to be prescribed by a physician. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline inked a deal to create a ‘digitally guided therapy,’ one of many such ventures in the growing ‘digital therapeutics‘ space hoping to move health apps beyond wellness trends.”

However, a paper published this week by University of York psychologist Simon Gilbody said that there are dangers in relying on Google to diagnose patients’ mental health. The diagnostic questionnaire presented to users is one that is commonly used by mental health professionals, but Gilbody says chances of a “false positive” are high, which can ultimately do more harm than good.

“Google’s initiative has been reported positively and uncritically despite bypassing the usual checks and balances that exist for good reason. It is unlikely that their initiative will improve population health and may in fact do harm,” the paper said.

John Grohol — director of the website PsychCentral — said that the Google plan presents a number of serious problems on its face, not the least of which are privacy concerns.

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“Google is a technology and marketing company that collects people’s data,” Grohol told Gizmodo. “It’s not really clear about how they would use this information. I wouldn’t want sensitive information like mental health to be in the hands of a marketing company.”


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‘Stay out of the way’: Fox News sources say Justice Roberts will let GOPers win tie votes on witnesses

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Chief Justice John Roberts is expected not to weigh in heavily during the question and answer phase of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

As the trial moves to the new phase on Wednesday, Roberts has the option of "inserting himself" into the process to rule on questions or other matters, according to Fox News correspondent Chad Pergram.

But sources told the Fox News reporter that Roberts will follow the model of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist who presided over President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999.

Under the Senate rules, measures that do not receive a majority of votes fail. So if a Senate vote of witnesses was tied 50-50, the measure would not pass. Roberts could choose to break the tie but he is not expected to do so.

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Ex-Trump chief of staff John Kelly: ‘I believe’ John Bolton and the Senate ‘should hear’ from him

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John Kelly, a former chief of staff to President Donald Trump, told a crowd in Sarasota, Florida on Tuesday that he believes former national security adviser John Bolton's claim that Trump directly linked releasing military aid to Ukraine with launching investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Kelly told an audience at a Ringling College Library Association Town Hall lecture that Bolton is a reliable source and should be heard out if reporting about his upcoming book is accurate.

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Law professor who studied under Alan Dershowitz shreds his ‘shockingly wrong’ case against impeaching Trump

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Aya Gruber, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School who studied under Trump impeachment attorney Alan Dershowitz at Harvard, had some uncharitable words to say about her former professor's argument against impeaching the president.

"Dershowitz was my criminal law prof, and he was a good one," Gruber writes on Twitter. "But as a crim law prof myself, I can say his motive argument (Congress shouldn't examine the internal motives of POTUS so long he could have had a good reason for withholding aid) is shockingly wrong."

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