London law firm Mishcon de Reya is bringing forward a major class action lawsuit against artificial intelligence (AI) firm DeepMind and its sister company Google over claims the two firms misused UK patients’ medical records while working with the Royal Free Hospital.
The lawsuit, filed to the High Court on behalf of 1.6m individuals, comes after the two firms struck a deal with the Royal Free Hospital through which it exchanged patient data for discounted use of a DeepMind developed smartphone app, designed to prevent deaths from acute kidney injuries.
The deal saw the Royal Free hospital hand over 1.6m historical medical records from patients who had passed through the London NHS trust, including information regarding drug overdoses, abortions, and diagnoses of HIV.
The UK’s information watchdog later said the Royal Free had failed to comply with privacy laws, as patients had not consented to their data being shared.
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) regulator also refused to fine the Royal Free, as it instead told the hospital trust to put in place measures to improve transparency around use of patient data.
Google and DeepMind are now subject to a class action lawsuit, being bankrolled by AIM listed litigation funder Litigation Capital Management (LCM), on the basis that the two firms misused private information, by obtaining and using the medical records without patients’ consent.
Mishcon partner Ben Lasserson said: “This claim is particularly important as it should provide some much-needed clarity as to the proper parameters in which technology companies can be allowed to access and make use of private health information.”
The lawsuit comes as the NHS has increasingly sought out ways to monetise patient data, with a view to improving health outcomes and generating extra income estimated to be worth as much as £9.6bn a year.
The lawsuit is being filed by former Royal Free patient Andrew Prismall on behalf of the 1.6m patients whose medical records were used.