DeepMind’s Royal Free NHS Trust deal a bit of a concern

5 May 2016

The Google-owned AI operation DeepMind is currently collaborating with the Royal Free NHS Trust to help medical professionals deal with patients, but new information on the deal has led to some privacy concerns.

Last February, Google confirmed its DeepMind operation was partnering up with the NHS – the fifth largest employer in the world – to help develop an app.

This app would help hospital staff monitor kidney disease by monitoring patient records, hospital visits and any data that could help.

However, the data-sharing agreement between DeepMind and NHS has been revealed, which shows just how much sensitive data is being handed over to the AI company.

The document clearly states that all “electronic person-identifiable data sent externally must be encrypted”, with DeepMind having to use a third-party office to store the data rather than its own offices, “except for ordinary remote development and administration”.

But New Scientist has suggested the data haul goes far beyond that needed for a mere kidney app, instead giving DeepMind access to a wide range of data on the 1.6m patients that attend any of three Royal Free NHS Trust hospitals.

“This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions,” reads the report.

There’s no tailored dataset for people with just kidney conditions apparently, which is why DeepMind will trawl the entire catalogue of patients. However, the extent to which patient data is being handed over to a third party will still concern many.

Mainly that the information includes pathology and radiology results, completed inpatient episodes, critical care data, A&E information and, quite surprisingly, a backlog of five years of the same.

“As with all information-sharing agreements with non-NHS organisations, patients can opt out of any data-sharing system by contacting the Trust’s data protection officer,” said the Trust in a statement.

Doctor and patient image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic