It turns out Google not only collects its users’ data and processes it for its own purposes but also uses confidential medical data. Recently, we learned that Google is facing a class action lawsuit for illegally using the confidential medical records of 1.6 million NHS (National Health Service) patients without authorization.
Further reading: DeepMind Appeared At The Center Of Sexual Harassment Scandal
The allegations of misuse of confidential information date back to 2015. This is the date when Google subsidiary DeepMind entered into a partnership with the Royal Free Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. DeepMind received medical data from the Royal Free Hospital. Then, the company used it in a clinical safety test of the smartphone app ‘Streams’. The latter is able to detect acute kidney injury. Subsequently, the Royal Free Hospital purchased the services of “Streams” at a discounted price.
A plummy deal between Google and Royal Free Hospital, but…
UK data privacy group has ruled that the Royal Free Hospital breached data protection law requirements.
The lawsuit also raised concerns about the misuse of health data by tech giants.
In 2020, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) asked Google to conduct a “comprehensive assessment of data protection requirements and privacy implications” for its acquired wearables giant Fitbit. In the end, Google signed the 10-year agreement, accepting a set of requirements written in the agreement.
DeepMind was previously at the center of a class-action lawsuit between Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center. It accused the former of violating patient privacy after the two sides reached a data agreement.
In addition, technology justice company Foxglove last year represented news website openDemocracy in a lawsuit against technology company Palantir over a £23 million NHS new coronavirus data storage agreement.
The lawsuit claims the NHS failed to consider the impact of the agreement on patients and the public. In its turn, the government admitted the charge. Plus, it agreed not to extend Palantir’s contract beyond the scope of the pandemic without consultation.
Medical data illegally used before
In a June 2020 legal inquiry, openDemocracy and Foxglove pressed the UK government to release contracts with big tech companies. They said the public has a right to know about the transfer of health data assets.
Lawyer Andrew Prismall will represent Mishcon de Reya LLP in a claim against Google.
“I hope that this case can achieve a fair outcome and closure for the many patients whose confidential records were – without the patients’ knowledge – obtained and used by these large tech companies,” Prismall said.
“This claim is particularly important as it should provide some much-needed clarity as to the proper parameters in which technology companies can be allowed to access and make use of private health information,” said Ben Lasserson, a partner at the law firm Mishcon de Reya.