back to article Google's Deepmind NHS deal 'inexcusable', says academic paper

Google’s DeepMind and the Royal Free London NHS deal to use patient data without explicit consent was "inexcusable", an academic paper has concluded in a damning report today. In 2016, DeepMind announced its first major health project: a collaboration with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust – a large UK hospital …

  1. Gordon Pryra

    Load of old toss

    How could a company like Google being given huge amounts of personal data EVER be seen as a good thing for the patients of the NHS?

    We don't need no stinking white paper, the Police however need just the off shore accounts of the people who signed off on it (or their Wife's Swiss/Caymen account or whatever)

    I am guessing that the same people to ok this were the same ones who did that deal with the "anonymised" high definition eye scans from Moorfields which was handed over to the company who has a device which scans peoples eyes for their password........

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Load of old toss

      Re the Moorfields thing. I can see where you're going with this, but that relies an a degree of joined-up thinking. That's something which tends to be lacking where officialdom is concerned, so maybe it's not as bad as you fear after all.

      (here's hoping)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Load of old toss

      And the patients were wondering, why they kept being fed with adverts for home dialisys machines, as they wandered around the web...

    3. Mage Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Load of old toss

      Is Deepmind even real AI, or a trojan to add more personal data to Google's silo?

      GIGO principal.

      Why is there a curtain?

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Re: Load of old toss

        "Is Deepmind even real AI"

        No, it's all a ploy to collect kidney data to.. what *do* you believe they're doing with it anyway?

        Seriously. Genuinely. I want to know. I don't understand this bit.

        Is it all like spooky magic and "3) Profit!"? How do they connect the kid on the dialysis machine to his online presence? Who has a product market demographic they need to aim at people with particular physical ailments, in a country where medical data *isn't* illegal to use like that?

        Besides, Deepmind is obviously alien technology.

        1. Dinsdale247

          Re: Load of old toss

          "Who has a product market demographic they need to aim at people with particular physical ailments, in a country where medical data *isn't* illegal to use like that?"

          Insurance companies are one of the largest and most profitable scams... er... business in the world. They are drooling over this for two reasons:

          1) Oh, we see you've had kidney issues in the past, your premium will now be $$$ higher per month

          2) Oh, we see you've had kidney issues in the past, we can offer you a special competitive package over your current provider for $$$ - 0.5p, and we'll even throw in a free Android phone to track...er... contact you in case of emergencies.

          1. Daggerchild Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Load of old toss

            "Insurance companies are one of the largest and most profitable scams... er... business in the world. They are drooling over this"

            Yeah, now draw a line from the pile of drool, through the laws forbidding it, through Deepmind being a separate company to the Ad grinder, back through the piles of evidence of blatent illegality both sides would possess, through all the illegal data processing systems and procedures they'd have to create, including a hidden market system, all the whistleblowers you'd have to silence, and tell me any of it exists.

            I know hate is tasty, but I like my kills clean. I *especially* like to confirm guilt before burning doctors for being witches.

            Be careful. Conspiracy theories have a nasty habit of not actually existing.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Load of old toss

      Whatever Google are getting up to (and remember they started with the help of CIA funding), it will undoubtedly be used to support the global elite policy to further enslaven, control and monitor the serfs.

      Anyone who thinks that the great progress of technology is being used to benefit us, are seriously deluded.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Load of old toss

        You got me thinking there.

        I saw a film called Elysium some time ago, now it's starting to make sense.

        As a side note - I mean, £174,000 to be a space tourist? Some of us grew up thinking we'd all be able to travel in space regardless of our wealth.

        So how much will it cost to enjoy the fruits of Google's labour (or ours?) for new age healthcare?

        I have a feeling that we're just being used, for the elite's benefit. Just like the film has portrayed!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Load of old toss

        Watch the film Elysium to get an idea of the future the global elites have in store for us.

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: Load of old toss

          "Watch the film Elysium to get an idea of the future the global elites have in store for us."

          Heh. I'm afraid the problem is deeper than that. Did you listen to the Trump voters? They want immigrants thrown out, they want foreign aid slashed, they want people they have power over, who can't fight back to suffer in their stead.

          Sound familiar?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Load of old toss

            And both immigrants and Trump (or indeed Hillary voters) will be equally treated with contempt by the ruling classes when they finally leave the planet in a state, due to their greed

    5. Daggerchild Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Load of old toss

      "How could a company like Google being given huge amounts of personal data EVER be seen as a good thing for the patients of the NHS?"

      Well, people's lives are on the line, and all of the stuff you're afraid of *is* in your head.

      What, aren't I allowed to call out *popular* bullshit?

  2. James 51 Silver badge

    Google's business model is to get data by hook or crook and then figure out a way to make money out of it. Mostly that is to run ads along side what ever you are looking at but they should never and I do mean never be trusted with something like medical records. It's a tale of abuse just waiting to happen.

    1. Dinsdale247

      Not only that, they are able to link data that seems un-related through massive predictive analysis engines. Why is that important? Because people with kidney problems are going to have special diets and other considerations that can be used to target advertisements. Because the data is "anonymitized" (I almost typed that without a sarcastic giggle) it just slips into the streams of data they are already collecting. Combine that information with age, race, location and sex and you have a very clear picture of what people are doing. Do you have air miles? Okay, now they also know your exact purchase patterns and can predict your needs to an alarming level of detail.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe Minority Report wasn't such a fantasy after all....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Across the vast ocean, yanks viewed our NHS with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      "We've analysed your kidney problem Sir, and we recommend a package of Google Red Weed as the appropriate treatment."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There are two main reasons why there is so much interest in AI and Digital records in health care.

      Firstly, the elites have had a long held desire to replace humans with a more compliant and cheaper 24/7 reliable workforce - robots and AI. This enables more and more elements of the health care system to be replaced by technology. Eventually, in the future, a human can be treated and fixed without human intervention. As to whether or not this service will be available to all, that's another debate entirely. Personally, I believe it will only be accessible by the wealthy (rather like space travel)

      Secondly, the elites have a desire to reduce the world population from several billion to 200-500 million in a decade or so time. They have many means at their disposal to achieve this, and having medical diagnosis and records fully digital makes it easier to monitor progress. Some call it health surveillance. But this makes it much easier to track progress, and make any necessary changes if depopulation isn't progressing fast enough. Have a look online if you think the depopulation isn't true, even Bill Gates has gone on record about his desire in this area (yet chooses to vaccinate children in India and Africa. Makes you wonder what's in those vaccines right?)

      Mark my words, none of this is designed for our benefit, but only for those sitting on top of the tree.

      I guess NHS health care came at a price, not just from our tax contributions, but from all the data we help provide, which belong to us, so why weren't we asked permission before our data was handed over to the likes of Google, because I would certainly have objected. This does sound rather like Facebook, you get a service for free, as long as you're happy to trade in your privacy. But at least we have a choice not to use Facebook if we weren't happy with that.

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    "It makes a series of significant factual and analytical errors, assuming that this kind of data agreement is unprecedented."

    So, it's been done like this before has it? Can anyone give an example?

    "In fact, every trust in the country uses IT systems to help clinicians access current and historic information about patients, under the same legal and regulatory regime."

    What does that have to do with the Deep Mind agreement? You might as well say that every trust uses thermometers under the same legal and regulatory regime.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      "So, it's been done like this before has it? Can anyone give an example?"

      The NHS has been pushing data to Dr Foster for years. There's an example on their front page right now - http://www.drfoster.com

      Doesn't make it right or legal, of course, and doesn't stop the Royal Free's statement being disingenuous (using IT != giving everything to Google).

    2. big_D Silver badge
      Mushroom

      The software the other trusts use don't link patient data with their advertising profiles... ;-)

  5. Bogle
    Joke

    NHS selling data on your kidneys.

    At least, I 'think' that joke alert icon is appropriate ...

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    We know Google does not view its users as its customers (because they are not)

    It seems the Royal Free does not view it's patients as it's "customers" either.

    And yes I strongly doubt how anonymized this data can be.

    1. Dinsdale247

      Re: We know Google does not view its users as its customers (because they are not)

      If said patient has an Android phone that information is no longer anonymous.

  7. wolfetone Silver badge

    NHS: "Right, no more. Delete that data Google."

    Google: "Ohhhh ok then." *click and drag data to Recycle Bin*

    NHS: "PROPERLY!!"

    Google: "Fine!" *empty recycle bin* "Done"

    NHS: "Good." *walks away*

    Google: *chuckles while it restores data from backup* "No one can stop the cloud. MWahahahahahaha"

  8. msage

    OK... but...

    I agree that any data sharing needs to be covered by rigorous policies and audited.

    However, given the value of this study and the compute power that these big companies have, I would rather the NHS used them than spent billions of the public purse to build their own compute resource that we would then, as a tax payer, have to pay to maintain and run.

    If it was a choice between sharing my data with google and saving patients lives, they can knock themselves out (there is nothing of any interest there anyway!) or having the public sector run another IT project that goes nowhere and costs millions and million. I know what I would choose.

    I'm not saying that there should be carte blanche but I think with the right safeguards this is the right route for the public sector to take.

  9. Flywheel Silver badge
    Coat

    It's okay - I'm sure they'll be able run it at the same time as our National Grid. What could possibly go wrong?

    I'll get my coat - it's the one with the box of matches and the candle in the pocket

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "every trust in the country uses IT systems"

    Obviously they use IT systems these days, but between that and being directly linked to the Hive Mind there's one heck of a difference.

    Unless there's something we don't know . . .

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WE are the native peoples now...

    Nothing to see here... Just a sweet case of the technically naive meets the 'devil of data slurp'.... Not only do these fucks not pay any taxes, they gifts they claim to bring are really just new-world sickness / disease applied to data theft. Surveillance Capitalism...??? WE are the native peoples now...

  12. Darth Poundshop

    The NHS Cash Cow

    The NHS herbivore is a constant victim of predatory commercial interests and this is no exception. NHS managers just don't have a mindset that understands the motivations of greedy corporations and how self serving they really are. This is how, anecdotally, we end up paying £45 for a £3 keyboard or get into a £15000 contract for a poxy photocopier. And letting the likes of Google have access to extremely valuable NHS data, that is virtually unique in the world due to the size of the data sets - for free. They should pay what it's worth - millions (assuming the true owners, the patients, are happy to approve). The Google counter argument would probably be that their work will contribute to our health. Google, I'd rather the tax that you should be paying went into the NHS, that would be a hell of a lot more valuable than your imperialist expansion into our data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The NHS Cash Cow

      You might not appreciate that the true legal owner of the medical records concerning your health is the Secretary of State for Health. It is up to him what he does with that information. The person to whom it relates has no realistic possibility of stopping him.

  13. inmypjs Silver badge

    "said both parties have "the highest regard for patient privacy and confidentiality"

    And like every god-damn privacy policy which begins with a similar statement you know it is a lie.

    Anyone feeling the need to state X where X ought to be a bleeding obvious truth is telling you that the truth of their X is actually a bit dodgy.

    1. mstreet

      Re: "said both parties have "the highest regard for patient privacy and confidentiality"

      The word "Regard", by definition, refers to something that is closely watched and thought about. Doesn't say anything about what they plan to do after they're done watching.

      It's one of the many words that have become so inappropriately over-used, it's basically become meaningless.

  14. nuked
    Black Helicopters

    These (information networks) are controlled by: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, IBM.

    Choose your faction...(wisely)

  15. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Not for this but the rhetoric doesn't help.

    “Networks of information now rule our professional and personal lives. These are principally owned and controlled by a handful of US companies: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, IBM. If these born-digital companies are afforded the opportunity to extend these networks into other domains of life, they will limit competition there too. This is what is at stake with Google DeepMind being given unfettered, unexamined access to population-wide health datasets. It will build, own and control networks of knowledge about disease.”

    What does any of this bullshit even mean? What is at stake exactly? That kind of writing would be appropriate for for the usual "issue" talk of some professional victim spokesbod.

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Not for this but the rhetoric doesn't help.

      Emotional writing in a scientific paper is usually a bad sign.

      When, like this, it also states that something with important ramifications will be true, but not how, you can pretty much be assured the paper was written from the Conclusion backwards.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Ben

    Don't be Evil.

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