A lawsuit against Google over the transfer of medical information from a British hospital to the tech giant has been dismissed by a High Court judge.
The claim was brought by Andrew Prismall, a patient at the Royal Free London NHS Trust, who alleged that his privacy had been breached when his data was shared with Google’s artificial intelligence business DeepMind Technologies.
In 2015, the trust handed over data on 1.6 million patients to DeepMind to build a smartphone app to evaluate medical records and detect acute kidney damage.
Mr Prismall argued that transferring his data was unlawful because it had not been approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
However, in a ruling on Friday, Mr Justice Nicklin dismissed the case, saying that the trust had obtained the necessary consent from patients before sharing their data with DeepMind.
He also said that the ICO had not found evidence that the trust breached data protection laws.
“The claimant has not put forward any evidence that the transfer of his data was unlawful,” Mr Justice Nicklin said.
“The claimant’s case is therefore dismissed.”
Google welcomed the ruling, saying it “vindicates the trust decision to work with DeepMind to improve patient care”.
“We are committed to working with some of the NHS to develop innovative new technology to help patients,” a Google spokesperson said.
As part of a series of legal challenges regarding Google’s data collection practices, the lawsuit is the latest one.
In 2020, the company was fined €4.34 billion by the European Commission for breaching data protection laws.
And in 2021, a group of 38 US states sued it for its alleged use of facial recognition technology.
Here are some additional details about the case:
- The lawsuit was filed in the High Court of Justice in London in 2021.
- Mr Prismall alleged that his privacy had been breached when his data was shared with DeepMind without his consent.
- The trust argued that it had obtained the necessary consent from patients before sharing their data with DeepMind.
- The ICO investigated the matter and found no evidence that the trust had breached data protection laws.
- Mr Justice Nicklin dismissed the case on Friday, saying that Mr Prismall had not put forward evidence that transferring his data was unlawful.
Google has said it is committed to working with the NHS to develop innovative new technologies to help patients. The company has also said it will continue complying with all applicable data protection laws.
Here are some reactions to the ruling:
- Andrew Prismall, the patient who brought the lawsuit, said he was “disappointed” with the ruling. He said that he would be considering his next steps.
- The Royal Free London NHS Trust said it was “pleased” with the ruling. The trust said that it had always acted in the best interests of its patients.
- The ICO said it was “confident” that its investigation had been thorough and fair. The ICO said it would continue to work with the NHS to protect patient data.
The ruling is a significant victory for Google and DeepMind. It is a reminder that companies can use patient data for research and development purposes without violating data protection laws as long as they obtain patient consent. The ruling is also a reminder that the ICO is committed to protecting patient data and that it will investigate any allegations of breaches.
Alphabet Inc units Google and DeepMind were sued last year by Royal Free patient Andrew Prismall on behalf of 1.6 million people, alleging misuse of personal information.
The companies argued in March that the lawsuit was “bound to fail” because there was no way to establish that all of the 1.6 million claimants’ personal information was misused or that they had any expectation of privacy about the news.
Judge Heather Williams ruled Friday that the case should not go forward, agreeing the matter was “bound to fail.”
“I have concluded that each member of the claimant class has no realistic prospect of establishing a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning their relevant medical records,” he said in a written ruling.