Google's decision to absorb DeepMind's health division has sparked privacy fears


Alphabet's artificial intelligence arm DeepMind revealed plans on November 13 to bring its health business into Google's newly formed health unit, which will be led by the former CEO of Danville, Pa. -based Geisinger, David Feinberg, MD, CNBC reports.

The ICO said it expects the measures set out in its audits to remain in place. But privacy experts point out that DeepMind promised that "Royal Free data 'will never be linked or associated with Google accounts, products, or services, '" and are claiming the company just broke that promise. It will now be controlled by parent company Google, DeepMind's founders announced in a blog post.

"Patient data remains under our partners' strict control, and all decisions about its use will continue to lie with them", said a spokesman for DeepMind. The change has also resulted in the dismantling of an independent review board, created to oversee the company's work with the healthcare sector, with Google arguing that the board was too focused on Britain to provide effective oversight for a newly global body. Suleyman said the team behind Streams would remain in London and report to the DeepMind health team's clinical lead, Dominic King.

DeepMind has also been criticised by health watchdogs in the past.

But it will now be California-based Google, and not London-based DeepMind, which will be operating the Streams app, which relies by its nature on the processing of patients' sensitive medical information.

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The move has already raised a backlash with critics, with Julia Powles, a research fellow at New York University's Information Law Institute who has criticised DeepMind Health in the past, saying the move to Google was "totally unacceptable". "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.

United Kingdom medical privacy group MedConfidential referred to a 2016 BBC article in which DeepMind was said to be ensuring that Streams data "isn't shared with Google".

The company, which gave us the Go-champion beating AlphaGo, has been in trouble before over patient privacy during tests of its Streams system to monitor patients remotely and alert doctors to issues before they arise.

Its goal is to solve general intelligence and make machines capable of learning for themselves.