Google succeeds in bid to throw out medical records claim

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Google has succeeded in a bid to throw out a High Court claim brought on behalf of around 1.6 million people about the transfer of their medical records by an NHS trust.

The software giant and its artificial intelligence arm DeepMind was facing legal action over the transfer of patient data by the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust.

Records were transferred by the trust for use in the developing of a mobile app called Streams, which would analyse patient data and alert doctors if they were at risk of developing or had developed an acute kidney injury, a serious condition that can be fatal.

Lawyers for Google and DeepMind said the claim was “bound to fail” and should be struck out.

A judge has ruled in their favour.

Mrs Justice Heather Williams announced her decision on Friday after considering legal arguments at a High Court hearing in London in March.

She said in a written ruling: “The claim form and the particulars of claim should be struck out at this stage and summary judgment entered for the defendants.”

A barrister representing Mr Prismall had told the judge that records transferred were not anonymised and data was shared without patients’ knowledge or consent.

He said despite that “small number”, the Streams system had “already been loaded” with about “1.6 million or more” patients’ medical records “regardless of whether they were of any relevance at all to nephrology”.

Antony White KC, for Google and DeepMind, said there was “no real prospect” of Mr Prismall’s claim on behalf of the large group succeeding.

Mr White said clinicians did not access any patient data which they would not in any event have “accessed in their normal practice”.

He said everyone represented in the group must have “the same interest” in the claim.

But he said there was a big variation in the nature and quantity of the data sent to the system.

Mrs Justice Williams said: “This is not a situation in which every member of the claimant class, or indeed any given member of the class, has a realistic prospect of establishing a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of their relevant medical records…”

She added: “There is no realistic prospect of the court concluding at trial that the members of the class across the board experienced a wrongful interference with their data.

“It therefore follows that the current claim is bound to fail.”

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