Privacy advocates have raised concerns about patients’ data after Google said it would take control of its subsidiary DeepMind’s healthcare division.
Google, which acquired London-based artificial intelligence lab DeepMind in 2014, said on Tuesday that the DeepMind Health brand, which uses NHS patient data, will cease to exist and the team behind its medical app Streams will join Google as part of Google Health.
It comes just months after DeepMind promised never to share data with the technology giant and an ethics board raised concerns over its independence.
A separate research team at DeepMind will continue to function independently of Google, but under the umbrella of its parent company Alphabet.
A DeepMind spokesman said: “All patient data remains under our partners’ strict control, and all decisions about its use lie with them.”
DeepMind health has already come under scrutiny from data watchdogs in the past. Last year, the Royal Free hospital in London was found to have breached the Data Protection Act over its handling of NHS patients’ data when using the Streams app, which was developed by DeepMind.
From the start, activists, technology researchers, and some government officials have been skeptical about the idea of putting Google, or one of its sister companies, in charge of a city. Their suspicions about turning part of Toronto into a corporate test bed were triggered, at first, by the company’s history of unethical corporate practices and surreptitious data collection. They have since been borne out by Quayside’s secret and undemocratic development process, which has been plagued by a lack of public input — what one critic has called “a colonizing experiment in surveillance capitalism attempting to bulldoze important urban, civic and political issues.” In recent months, a series of prominent resignationsfrom advisory board members, along with organized resistance from concerned residents, have added to the growing public backlash against the project.