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article imageFresh concerns with Google’s health app

By Tim Sandle     Nov 14, 2018 in Health
London - A health app called Streams, that was built by artificial intelligence company DeepMind, is to be operated by Google. This has sparked new data privacy concerns.
Google acquired DeepMind in 2014, however the company has operated independently – until now. Google has said that the DeepMind Health brand, which uses National health Service patient data, will no longer exist and the Streams workforce will join Google Health.
Streams has proved controversial, particularly when it was first used to send alerts in a London hospital, with the initial focus being acute kidney injury. The main issue was that the app had been gathering data on 1.6 million patients without informing them or seeking prior consent. This led to a ruling against the company by the U.K. Information Commissioner.
Over time use of the app has extended to ten London hospitals. The medical applications have also increased, expanding into areas like eye diseases including macular degeneration.
The initial project raises several ethical issues. For example, Digital Journal reported back in 2016 that it was uncertain whether the ethical approval process that covers the type of data transfer should have been obtained. It also raised questions about the basis under which the London hospital which had been piloting the device had shared its data with Google DeepMind.
Later, in 2017 we reported on concerns over the absence of any oversight or legally binding documents stating how the data obtained from patients would be used (which links to what patients were and were not told about the app.
According to the BBC, Google now aims for the app to become an artificial intelligence assistant for nurses and doctors globally. This has led to concerns from data privacy experts. Lawyer Julia Powles, has said: "DeepMind repeatedly, unconditionally promised to 'never connect people's intimate, identifiable health data to Google'…. Now it's announced... exactly that. This isn't transparency, it's trust demolition”
However, Google has defended the use of the app, stating that the app’s accuracy is backed-up by detailed evidence and it meets data security and privacy concerns. The main privacy control, Google says, is that the data remains will the health practitioner and it is not shared with third parties.
Despite this, information obtained by CNBC has found that an independent review board DeepMind set up to oversee its health work will likely be shut down as a result of the move. What will be put in its place, if anything, has not been announced.
More about Google, Healthcare, Health app, Streams, deep mind
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