A new academic report examining a deal between Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has said that the US tech giant made “inexcusable” errors in terms of transparency and oversight when handling sensitive medical information.
The data-sharing agreement — which was signed in 2015 and has since been superseded by a new contract — allows DeepMind access to medical records from 1.6 million patients attending London hospitals run by the NHS Royal Free Trust. Although at the time Google presented the deal as primarily about finding patients at risk from a condition known as acute kidney injury or AKI, the actual terms of the agreement, revealed in April 2016 by a New Scientist investigation, were more broad.
The report notes that DeepMind was given access not only to relevant blood tests and diagnostics, but historical medical records dating back five years, including information on HIV diagnoses, drug overdoses, and abortions. The report also says the wording of the 2015 deal did not constrain the company from using AI analytical techniques on the data (something DeepMind disputes).