A Google-owned artificial intelligence (AI) research firm is facing a class-action lawsuit over its use of the health records of 1.6 million patients in the U.K.
According to PC Gamer, the suit was filed against DeepMind, which was given access to the records to build a health app known as Streams.
The lawsuit, which was filed by chief plaintiff Andrew Prismall, a patient at Royal Free Hospital, includes roughly 1.6 million additional patients on an opt-out basis (meaning they are part of the class until they choose to opt out).
“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,” said Prismall in a statement. “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.”
As previously reported in this space, DeepMind had deals with six NHS trusts to develop the app, which would let staff know when patients might be at risk of an acute kidney injury.
But in 2017, the Information Commissioner’s Office passed a ruling that the Royal Free Hospital NHS Foundation Trust unlawfully transferred 1.6 million records to DeepMind, because patients had not been informed about what happened with their data. The share data included ethnic origin, treatment dates, medical history and diagnoses.
“Our investigation found a number of shortcomings in the way patient records were shared for this trial,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said at the time. “Patients would not have reasonably expected their information to have been used in this way.”