Google DeepMind, Royal Free data sharing

April 2016
Updated: May 2022

Google's DeepMind AI unit and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust are sharing sensitive data, including mental health records and HIV diagnosis, of 1.6 million patients, according to the New Scientist.

The patient records had been used to create, test and run Streams, a diagnosis and detection system initially developed by the NHS and wrapped into a Deepmind smartphone app that detects when patients are at risk of developing acute kidney injury.

The New Scientist later revealed that the two parties had failed to secure approval from the Confidentiality Advisory Group of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

The reports prompted a furore about patient privacy and data security.

Regulatory and legal actions

In July 2017, the UK Information Commissioner's Office ruled that the Royal Free hospital had failed to comply with the UK Data Protection Act when it shared the data, though it did not issue a fine on the basis that there was a lack of guidance for the sector.

Law firm Mishcon de Reya announced it was to bring a class action lawsuit against Google on behalf of the 1.6 million individuals whose medical records were shared in September 2021.

The action was later discontinued and resurrected in May 2022 as a legal action against Google for using the NHS data of 1.6 million Britons 'without their knowledge or consent'.

The action is backed by Australia-based Litigation Capital Management, which describes itself as an alternative asset manager specialising in dispute financing solutions.

Operator: Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
Developer: Alphabet/Google/Deepmind; NHS
Country:
UK
Sector: Health
Technology: Prediction algorithm
Purpose:
Detect & predict acute kidney disease
Issue: Privacy; Security; Ethics
Opacity: Governance; Black box; Privacy

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