Google DeepMind faces UK class action over health data

doctorGoogle is facing yet another class action in the UK, this time over the controversial deal which saw its DeepMind division handed the personal records of 1.6 million patients at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

The issue, which dates back to 2015, saw DeepMind create a potentially life-saving app called Streams, designed to alert, diagnose, and detect when patients were at risk of developing acute kidney injury.

An Information Commissioner Office investigation ruled that the hospital had not done enough to protect the privacy of patients when it shared data with Google. Although it did not issue a monetary penalty, the ICO did force the NHS Trust to commit to changes ensuring it was acting in line with the law by signing an undertaking.

Following that ruling, DeepMind apologised and said that it should have been thinking about the needs of patients rather than on building tools for clinicians.

But now law firm Mishcon de Reya is launching a class action on behalf of the lead plaintiff Andrew Prismall and the 1.5 million other affected patients.

The firm insists the action is an important step in seeking to address the 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, it claims.

Andrew Prismall said: “Given the very positive experience of the NHS that I have always had during my various treatments, I was greatly concerned to find that a tech giant had ended up with my confidential medical records.

“As a patient having any sort of medical treatment, the last thing you would expect is your private medical records to be in the hands of one of the world’s biggest technology companies.

“I hope that this case will help achieve a fair outcome and closure for all of the patients whose confidential records were obtained in this instance without their knowledge or consent.”

The case is being led by Mishcon partner Ben Lasserson, who 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.”

Google is also the subject of a protracted class action for its alleged secret tracking of millions of iPhone users. The case, which has been running for nearly four years, dates back over a decade, when it is alleged that Google “slurped” the personal data of millions of iPhone users without their permission.

“Google You Owe Us”, a group set up by former Which? director Richard Lloyd, is awaiting a Supreme Court decision following the latest hearing in April this year.

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