DeepMind Health Under Google: Patient Data Out in the Open?

After ten months since their announcement last November, the London-based company DeepMind Technologies has been taken over by Google.

The Takeover

Along with this takeover of DeepMind Technologies, the National Health Trusts (NHS) previously partnered with them. The National Health Trusts had an interest in Deepmind’s Streams app and had renegotiated their contracts with Google. Regardless of having signed a 5-year contract with DeepMind Technology back in 2017, they hinted of not finding a way to include the app into their work patterns, thus making the decision to bring their previous arrangement to an end.

Google’s Interest in the Acquisition of DeepMind

Google’s interest in DeepMind Technologies was for its tech that helps doctors and nurses to monitor patients having a severe kidney condition. Google stated that transferring the Streams app to its global health division would provide the app with the resources it requires to expand globally. Further, Google can now use their experience to accelerate that DeepMind was working on, the use of radiotherapy to provide treatment for head and neck cancer. Google intends to take over the existing projects and working on their acceleration with the resources which DeepMind lacked to help patients.

August 19, 2018 Mountain View / CA / USA – Google logo on one of the buildings situated in Googleplex, the company’s main campus in Silicon Valley

The Controversy…

Google’s takeover of DeepMind was a painful process with many obstacles. Back in 2015, the trust that partnered with DeepMind in the development of their app was found to breach the United Kingdom’s privacy law. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) found the Royal Free to be sharing the medical records of 1.6 million patients during the development of the app. DeepMind assured that the medical information of patients would never be handed over to Google, a claim which is now found to be baseless. After their acquisition of DeepMind Technologies by Google Health, it is difficult to say whether a patient’s data will be transferred to Google. The National Data Guardian and ICO this summer stated that the ‘latter’s findings in 2017 showed Streams to have breached data protection law. Although Google Health has assured the maximum privacy of the patients’ data, their lack of transparency certainly gives no sense of security. The creation of an independent panel of reviewers created by DeepMind to oversee their activities with the NHS was disbanded after Google acquired them. This has resulted in more skepticism and doubt amongst the public.

The lack of trust and transparency created by Google Health going into this take over maybe an indication of having learned nothing from the mistakes of DeepMind. The promises made by DeepMind previously about remaining autonomous and independent from the clutches of Google certainly seem empty too.

What are your thoughts on Google acquiring DataMind? Do you think data should be in the hands of a tech company?