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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

How safe is our personal data?

As if it were not bad enough that the UK Tory Government is seeking to give the security forces, the police and local councils carte blanche to randomly and indiscriminately access our personal data, the Independent reports that the NHS has given the medical records of 1.6 million patients to Google.

The records, which relate to patients of three London hospitals which form the Royal Free Trust; Barnet, Chase Farm and Royal Free Hospital collected over the course of the last five years, have been shared with Google as part of a data-sharing agreement. An estimated 1.6 million patients attend the hospitals every year.

According to the report,  Google says it intends to use the data as part of its group DeepMind to develop a health app which can help recognise kidney injury. However, campaigners have expressed concerns that the data-share is a breach of trust and not in patients’ interest:

Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential which campaigns for confidentiality in healthcare, told The Independent that the data-share was “not in the spirit of the NHS.” He said: “There are existing and strong processes for doing safe medical research using data; but this project seems to have followed none of them. To ensure patient confidence, properly run projects require transparency on what is being done, and why. That is to protect patients from the confusion about what this data will be used for.” Google has denied this, stating that it is following strict HSCIC information governance rules.

Google has been criticised in recent times for perceived privacy breaches due to the amount of data which it holds on individuals. In 2014, 38 US states sued Google when it was alleged that the cars with which the company takes Google Street View photographs had also been collecting data from computers inside the homes they drove past.

The company has also been accused of sifting through information on messages sent by users through its system to sell the byproducts to advertisers and not making it sufficiently clear to customers that it is able to read wifi passwords.

The commercialisation of patient records is in nobody's interests and this action by the NHS must add to the serious concerns about the current government's attitude to privacy and personal data.
This is a data information breach of the highest order by the NHS which is still Government controlled indirectly.I know that ,slowly the Tories want to privatise health and this opens the door a crack for who is to say they eventually, Google, will not start selling products to people via this information.
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