A court case has been launched on behalf of more than a million people whose confidential medical records were obtained by Google.
Mishcon de Reya, which filed the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, said it was launched to address public concerns about technology companies’ use of private health data.
In 2015, Google’s AI company DeepMind obtained the personal records of 1.6 million patients at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. There was public outrage when it was discovered that large amounts of data had been tapped by DeepMind. However, the company insisted that patient records were used to help create a life-saving app.
The Streams app was a warning, diagnosis and recognition system that would detect when patients were at risk of developing acute kidney disease and is now on the verge of being taken out of service after DeepMind was subsumed to Google Health.
There have been many questions about the legality of data use, and in 2017 the Information Commission found the hospital had not done enough to ensure patients’ privacy when it shared data with Google.
In response to the decision, DeepMind apologized and said it had focused on building tools for doctors, rather than thinking about how the project should have been shaped by the needs of patients.
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