Monday, 18 June, 2018

Google's DeepMind project and Royal Free Trust breach patient privacy laws

SKOREA-SCIENCE-COMPUTERS-AI DeepMind has become more transparent since alarm over patient data
Terence Owen | 04 July, 2017, 09:14

The data was provided in a medical trial that integrated information from existing systems used by the Royal Free to alert clinicians when signs of deterioration in a patient with Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) were found.

Following a year-long investigation the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has ordered the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust to set-out a proper legal basis for processing the patient data.

United Kingdom data privacy laws require organizations to have legitimate reasons for collecting personal data and using it. Data collectors and processors have to be clear about why they are collecting the data and how they plan on using it, the ICO said. She said: "Patients would not have reasonably expected their information to have been used in this..."

In September 2015, the Royal Free inked a deal with Google's Deepmind "to develop and deploy a new clinical detection, diagnosis and prevention application and the associated technology platform for the Trust", the regulator said.

Privacy impact assessments are a key data protection tool of our era, as evolving law and best practice around the world demonstrate.

"In short, the evidence presented to date leads the Commissioner to conclude that data subjects were not adequately informed that the processing was taking place and that as result, the processing was neither fair nor transparent", said the ICO. Specifically, the law in question is the Data Protection Act, and the NHS' data sharing practices with DeepMind were found to have fallen short of compliance with this regulation in multiple ways. NHS organisations, perhaps more than any other sector, need to remember that we are talking about the medical information of real patients.

The Commissioner's Office has now asked the Trust to commit to making changes to how it collects and processes patient data.

Back in May, NHS trusts across the United Kingdom were among the many organizations that fell victim to the WannaCry/WannaCrypt malware, which hobbled thousands of PCs running unpatched or out of date versions of Windows 7 and Windows XP.

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"The price of innovation didn't need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights", wrote Denham in a blog post. Each of the trusts will likely want to review their approach to patient consent and data transfers in light of the ICO's report on the Royal Free.

The Information Commissioner (ICO) has now concluded a year-long investigation that focused on the Royal Free's clinical testing of Streams in late 2015 and 2016, which was meant to guarantee that the service could be deployed safely at the hospital.

"I've every confidence the Trust can comply with the changes we've asked for and still continue its valuable work". "We also welcome the decision of the Department of Health to publish updated guidance for the wider NHS in the near future".

"Although today's findings are about the Royal Free, we need to reflect on our own actions too".

In response to critics alleging that it had not sought NHS patients' permission to receive their data, DeepMind appointed nine Independent Reviewers to judge its handling of patients' data.

All eyes are on Google after a British data protection watchdog said that a hospital trust in the United Kingdom may have participated improperly in a patient data sharing trial with Google.

Denham said the hospital's numerous shortcomings were "avoidable" and noted it wasn't convinced it was "necessary or proportionate" to share 1.6 million patients' records in order to test the Streams app.

The ICO investigation, concerns about how Streams handles patient consent, and disquiet about the large-scale transfer of patient records to a Google company, have not stopped Deepmind signing up other trusts.

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