Google’s DeepMind Faces Legal Action Over Data Misuse

Google's parent company and its AI business DeepMind are facing legal action for the way in which they obtained and processed over a million patient health records without consent in the UK. A legal case has been launched on behalf of more than a million people whose confidential medical records were obtained by Google.

DeepMind, a London artificial intelligence lab that was acquired by Google in 2014 and in 2015, Google's AI firm DeepMind was given the personal records of 1.6 million patients at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

The current legal case is being led by law firm Mishcon de Reya and the lead plaintiff  Andrew Prismall said he had been "greatly concerned" about how his data had been used. Mishcon de Reya said it was launched to address public concerns about the use of private health data by tech firms. In a recent press release, Mishcon de Reya described the lawsuit as an “important step in seeking to address the very real public concerns about large-scale access to, and use of, private health data by technology companies... It also raises issues regarding the precise status and responsibility of such technology companies in the data protection context, both in this specific case, and potentially more generally,” the firm said.

When it became public that vast amounts of data had been tapped into by DeepMind, there was outrage, although the firm insisted that the patient records were being used to help create a life-saving app.

The Streams app was an alert, diagnosis and detection system that could spot when patients were at risk of developing acute kidney injury. It is in the process of being decommissioned, following DeepMind being incorporated into Google Health. There were several inquiries into the legality of the data use, and in 2017 the Information Commissioner's Office said that the hospital had not done enough to protect the privacy of patients when it shared data with Google.

In a statement in response to that ruling, DeepMind apologised and said that it had concentrated on building tools for clinicians, rather than thinking about how the project should have been shaped by the needs of patients.

Mishcon de Reya partner Ben Lasserson said: "This important claim should help to answer fundamental questions about the handling of sensitive personal data and special category data... It comes at a time of heightened public interest and understandable concern over who has access to people's personal data and medical records and how this access is managed."

There have been a number of class action suits launched in the UK, in which one plaintiff represents millions and these cases are known as opt-out representative actions because they include everyone that the case applies to, unless they specifically request not to be part of it.

In another group action a group calling itself  “Google You Owe Us” has been launched on behalf of four million iPhone users, alleging they were illegally tracked by Google.

New Scientist:      Decision Marketing:    CNBC:       BBC:      Techcrunch:      Business Insider:  

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