Google handed private medical records


PATIENTS, NHS workers and privacy campaigners alike are outraged that people’s private medical records are to be put on the internet without their consent in a ‘project’ between Google and Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Sarah Cook, head of health at the union Unite, told News Line: ‘Patients should be aware of what is happening to their medical records, and patients’ medical information should not be used without their consent. ‘Why should Google be given access to medical records? That is the real question.’

The project will see it using one million eye scans to train its artificial intelligence system called DeepMind to ‘diagnose potential sight issues’. Privacy campaigning group Big Brother Watch director Daniel Nesbitt said: ‘In many cases members of the public simply don’t know who has access to their information. All too often we see data being shared without the informed consent or proper understanding of those it will actually affect.’

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, said: ‘It’s an awful lot of data if it gets into the wrong hands. Patient confidentiality must always be protected.’

In May it was revealed that Google’s DeepMind, had been given access to the healthcare data of up to 1.6 million patients from three hospitals run by London’s Royal Free Trust in order to develop an app, called Streams, that would notify doctors should someone be at risk of developing acute kidney injury (AKI).

It now emerges that the NHS has similar deals with 1,500 different third parties.

The NHS claims that it would not be practical to ask every patient to consent to every one of these arrangements.

Patients can ‘opt out’ of any data-sharing system, but this means that they have to be aware that their private medical information is being shared in the first place.