Google and DeepMind are sued over knowledge take care of UK NHS
Demis Hassabis, co-founder of Google’s startup DeepMind for artificial intelligence (AI).
Jeon Heon-Kyun | Getty Images
LONDON – Alphabets Google and sister company DeepMind are being prosecuted for the way they have received and processed over a million patient records in the UK without consent
UK law firm Mishcon de Reya told CNBC on Friday that it had a lawsuit in the High Court on behalf of Andrew Prismall and about 1.6 million others whose medical records were obtained by DeepMind as part of the development of a patient monitoring app called Streams submitted.
“As a patient undergoing medical treatment, the last thing you expect is your private medical records to be in the hands of one of the largest tech companies in the world,” said Prismall, the patient at the hospital where the Streams app was developed. it says in a statement.
“I hope this case will help achieve a fair outcome and settlement for all patients whose confidential records on this case were obtained without their knowledge or consent,” he added.
DeepMind declined to comment when contacted by CNBC, while Google didn’t respond immediately.
DeepMind, a London-based artificial intelligence laboratory that was acquired by Google in 2014, was in the spotlight in 2016 when the New Scientist reported that its collaboration with the UK’s National Health Service went beyond what was publicly announced.
DeepMind and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust signed a contract in 2015 that gave DeepMind access to pseudonymized patient data.
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ruled in 2017 that the data-sharing agreement between DeepMind and the NHS was in breach of data protection law.
“Our investigation has identified a number of shortcomings in the distribution of patient records for this study,” said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham in a statement at the time. “Patients would not reasonably have expected their information to be used in this way.”
However, a later review of the data sharing agreement by the law firm Linklaters found that Royal Free London’s use of streams was lawful and compliant with data protection laws.
Mishcon partner Ben Lasserson said in a statement that the proposed lawsuit should help answer fundamental questions about the handling of sensitive personal data.
He added that “it comes at a time of heightened public concern and understandable concern about who has access to and how that access is administered to individuals’ personal data and medical records.”
Another controversial data sharing agreement
Elsewhere, the NHS has also been criticized for signing a data-sharing agreement with US company Palantir last year. The data analytics company was co-founded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who was an early investor in DeepMind.
Privacy and human rights activists cited ethical and moral concerns when they launched a campaign in June to prevent Palantir from working with the NHS. Since its inception, the publicly traded company has worked with espionage agencies, border troops and the military, often keeping the intricacies of the contracts a secret.
Clive Lewis, a Labor MP in the UK Parliament and a supporter of the campaign, accused Palantir of having “an appalling track record”. Palantir declined to respond to these comments.
The “No Palantir in Our NHS” campaign comes after Palantir worked with the NHS on a Covid-19 “data store” designed to help the government and health services use data to monitor the spread of the virus.