Does Google have access to your medical details?
The title of the blog posting is something that will scare and cause a great deal of alarm to many people. The thought of any company or organisation obtaining information about a private person’s medical records and health is something that will rightly anger many people. This indeed however appears to be what has happened, and Google are set to be sued for obtaining data without people’s knowledge and consent. Our latest article will take a closer look in more detail and provide you with all the information you need to know.
The case is not a recent one and dates back to 2015. The delay is down to the fact that these things often take so long to gather evidence and facts in order for action to be taken. The case involves the Royal Free NHS Trust in London, which actually gave Google the patient data in the first place. The former trust has already been told that this practice was illegal and has been subject to an Information Commissioner’s Office investigation. As far as Google is concerned, the breach relates to their DeepMind brand, which was a branch of their Artificial Intelligence offering.
An action is currently being put before the High Court against Google, so it will be very much a ‘watch this space’ story to see how it unfolds and what the eventual conclusions will be. In the mean time however, some general points about how this happened and what the actual impact of the case (and how that could affect practices going forward) can be considered.
How did Google come to possess health information?
It appears as though it affects people who randomly attended A & E departments over a 5 year period, who were offered the chance to test an app for smartphones which could detect some kinds of kidney problems and injuries. It then appears as though data was collected and obtained without expressly being asked or authorised by the patients who took part in these trials. Even though this may only apply to a small number of people in totality of the matter, 5 years is a long period of time for data to be gathered. This is the only case we currently know about, but that doesn’t mean that several more instances of this kind of practice are happening more generally and frequently. Many would argue that 1 person and 1 case is too many when it comes to these kinds of situations, and they should be given the rightly serious approach and reforms that they deserve.
What could the implications of this case be?
Until the final verdict does arise, that can obviously be difficult to say. One of the short term aims of this case is to bring some resolution for the people who have been affected. One thing for certain however is the growing need to protect people’s private and confidential data, especially as life becomes more and more digital and as the use of artificial intelligence becomes more common. This is perhaps some of the wider context that that will eventually be digested when the case is concluded. The hope is that the court will provide some clear instructions on the level and extent to which technology companies can use records or data of private individuals in these circumstances.
The truth is that Google will not like these kinds of headlines. The relationship with the public is key, both as an advertiser and an information provider. Trust in the marketing world can be difficult to obtain and keep at the best of times. This applies to all, and Google are no exception, despite their big branding!
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