A new class-action lawsuit has been filed against Google in the Uk as a result of a 2016 data scandal, which involved the discovery of its artificial intelligence division, DeepMind, had disclosed patient data from approximately one million patients without their knowledge or consent as part of an app development project called ‘Streams’ at the Royal Free NHS Trust in London. Sanctions were subsequently imposed on the trust by the UK Data Protection Authority, after the agency found that data protection laws were breached when a contract establishing a data sharing agreement with DeepMind was signed in 2015. The tech firm was employed to assist the development of an app wrapper to help alert medical professionals of early symptoms of acute kidney injuries. Despite violating British law, the tech firm avoided punishment as the Trust had the responsibility of disclosing their patients sensitive health information.
The lawsuit has been issued by Andrew Prismall, on behalf of approximately over 1.6 million patients whose health records were disclosed to Deepmind. Mishcon de Reya, the law firm representing the plaintiff, will be requesting damages for the tech firm’s misuse of confidential health information. Although having significant involvement, the Royal Free Trust has not received a lawsuit, as the tech firm is deemed responsible for violating the law.
Despite receiving an abundance of criticism for the 2015 data scandal, the Trust has not received any sanctions. The only punishment came in the form of reputational damage. DeepMind was able to continue forming contract agreements with other NHS trusts, despite undergoing development without legal authorization for the use of patient data. After transferring the healthcare division to Google in 2018, DeepMind claimed it would no longer provide support for the development of the app or handling patient data. Google has since announced that it was ceasing operations of ‘Streams’. The Trust continued to use the app, raising concerns about the security of patient’s information since Google’s withdrawal. Google’s departure from the app’s operations may have been an attempt to discreetly leave the scandal behind them. However, the tech giant will now have to defend itself in court to avoid receiving punishment.