• In 2016, the New Scientist revealed that DeepMind, the company behind the AI-powered chatbot DeepMind, was working with the U.K.’s National Health Service. Their collaboration went way beyond what was publicly announced.
  • According to CNBC, British law firm Mishcon De Reya said it had filed a claim with the High Court on behalf of about 1.6 million individuals whose records were obtained by DeepMind.
  • In 2015, DeepMind and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust signed a deal that allowed DeepMind to access the data of pseudonymized patients.

Google and its unit firm DeepMind are facing legal action in the U.K. for illegally obtaining and processing over a million patient health records. The data was considered to be illegally used since it was collected and used without consent.

Law firm Mishcon De Reya announced it had filed a lawsuit against Google’s DeepMind on behalf of the individuals who had their medical records collected by the company. This is part of the effort to push for creating a patient monitoring app called Streams.

Andrew Prismall, a patient at the hospital where the Streams app was developed, expressed his worries as a patient having medical treatment, by stating that the last thing he wants is to know and has his private medical records shared with the world’s biggest technology companies.

The case aims to resolve the privacy concerns of the patients whose records were obtained without their consent or knowledge.

DeepMind refused to comment when contacted by CNBC, while Google did not directly respond.

Secret deal
DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014, became the spotlight in 2016 after a report revealed that it worked with the U.K.’s National Health Service and its collaboration went beyond what was publicly announced.

In 2015, DeepMind and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust signed a deal that allowed DeepMind to access the data of pseudonymized patients.

In 2017, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that the DeepMind-NHS data-sharing agreement breached data protection law.

The way patient records were shared during a clinical trial was not ideal, the Information Commissioner said in September. She added that patients would not have expected their information to be used in the way it was used.

DeepMind’s CEO on machine learning
An independent audit of the data-sharing agreement done by law firm Linklaters after the Royal Free London scandal concluded that their use of Streams complied with data protection regulations.

Ben Lasserson, at the law firm Mishcon De Reya, said that the lawsuit would help answer fundamental questions about how sensitive personal data was and how was it handled.

The incident comes at a time when the public is interested and worried about how easily their personal data and medical records can be accessed and used, and how is this data access monitored.

Another controversial agreement
Other than that, the National Health Service (NHS) has been criticized for signing a data contract last year with a U.S. company with Palantir, which was co-founded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel. Note that, Peter Thiel was an early investor in DeepMind.

Palantir, a tech firm that works with the US and other countries, has been accused of violating ethical and moral concerns. This is the reason behind privacy campaigners and human rights activists’ trials in stopping Palantir from working with the NHS. Since its establishment, Palantir has worked with various spy and military agencies. The finer details of contracts are typically kept private.

Labor Party MP of the U.K.’s parliament and one of the campaign’s backers, Clive Lewis accused Palantir of having an appalling track record. Palantir refused to respond to these comments.

The “No Palantir in Our NHS” campaign comes after the partnership of Palantir with the National Health Service (NHS) to create a “Data Store” during the Covid-19 pandemic, that will enable the government to monitor the spread of the virus.


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