Privacy Alert- NHS Trust shares data of 1.6 million patients with Google

British Data Protection watchdog is planning to sue Royal Free Trust belonging to NHS for sharing the data of more than 1.6 million patients with Google. Since the NHS trust did not comply with the data protection laws while passing on the personal information, The British Information Commissioner Office (ICO) plans to slap a fine amounting to 40 million pounds on the healthcare organization.

As per the details disclosed by ICO, The Royal Free Trust passed on the diagnosis info of more than 1.6 million patients to Google artificial intelligence and machine learning project handled by DeepMind- a business subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet.

ICO claims that there were many shortcomings in the way the NHS Trust handled data and this includes patients not being informed of the fact that their medical condition details will be shared with a Google project which is still in testing stage.

In a statement issued by Elizabeth Denham, the head of ICO, it was clearly mentioned that the info share led to the erosion of fundamental privacy rights.

Elizabeth agreed that such creative use of patient data could lead to improvements in patient and clinical care in future. But she stressed out on the fact that it should have been done through proper channel and as per the existing data sharing laws.

Royal Free claims that the data was provided to conduct a medical trial and added that the system could turn useful in near future by alerting clinicians when signs of deterioration in a patient with Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) was found.

A spokesperson from Royal Free NHS Trust released a press statement a few hours ago which said that the trust has now signed a document agreeing to make changes to the way they handled the data. The spokesperson also added in the statement that officials from NHS will talk with the authorities of ICO to sort out this issue amicably out of court.

In the meantime, Google artificial intelligence arm “Deep Mind” has also reacted to the claims made by ICO and has taken the responsibility to handle the data with a lot of care.

A statement issued by DeepMind on Monday said that the intelligence arm owned by Alphabet is focused on building tools that nurses and doctors could use to treat patients in a proactive way. The company is also ready to handle the shared data in a better way from now on and has also informed the ICO of the same yesterday.

Cybersecurity Insiders sources have learned that Google has so far gained access to sensitive patient info such as HIV status, mental health history and abortion from Royal Free Trust.
ICO is yet to announce its future course of the plan on this issue.

Thus, more details will be updated shortly!

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Naveen Goud
Naveen Goud is a writer at Cybersecurity Insiders covering topics such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Startups, Cyber Attacks, Cloud Security and Mobile Security

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