One of the individuals responsible for founding the Google DeepMind project has defended the relationship entered into by Google and the health service.
Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind and head of the company’s healthcare division, asserted that the Google DeepMind project is extremely ethical, and that Google is better placed to handle sensitive data than any other corporation.
Suleyman suggested that the world’s largest software company has already built up an impressive record of handling and securing sensitive personal information in a wide variety of other fields.
“As Googlers, we have the very best privacy and secure infrastructure for managing the most sensitive data in the world. That’s something we’re able to draw upon as we’re such a core part of Google. When we developed our information governance toolkit and we submitted that for assessment to the health and social care information centre (HSCIC), which approves these data-sharing agreements, we got 100% for our toolkit. There’s pretty much nobody else who’s been able to get a score as high as that,” Suleyman stated.
In fact, DeepMind has already been awarded the highest possible rating for the governance of information within its auspices.
Nonetheless, privacy campaigners are still extremely concerned about the level of access that Google has been granted.
With the software giant having gained access to the medical data for 1.6 million patients across three London hospitals – Barnet, Chase Farm, and the Royal Free – there are question marks over the level of access being afforded Google.
And although the DeepMind co-founder has emphasised Google’s track record, the conduct of the software company has certainly not always been exemplary in this department.
There have been many objections raised to the Google Street View project, and Google itself even admitted that he had violated certain important principles while gathering data for the massive mapping project.
And data experts have already been critical of this extraordinary information-sharing relationship.
Sam Smith, who runs health data group MedConfidential, emphasised that the level of access being afforded to Google is certainly out of the ordinary.
“This is not just about kidney function,” Smith pointed out. “They’re getting the full data.”
While Neil Lawrence, professor of machine learning and computational biology at the University of Sheffield, was cautiously critical of the decision to enable Google to gain patients access.
“I’m sure they’re [Google DeepMind] well meaning, but I don’t think we should be doing all this in such secrecy. I think it’s a little strange that this information isn’t public as a matter of course.”
Google is one of the largest corporations on the planet, with a market capitalisation in the region of $500 billion.