Thursday, 15 November 2018 11:07

Any health data for sale? Google is ready to slurp it up

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Any health data for sale? Google is ready to slurp it up Pixabay

If Australian health data brokers are looking for a buyer with plenty of money, then they need look no further than the world's biggest search engine.

Google has indicated that it will now turn its attention to mining health data after folding its DeepMind Health unit into the main company and getting rid of the independent review committee that was part of the unit.

But DeepMind has, in the process, broken a pledge which it made to Britain's National Health Service, with whom it worked, that "data will never be connected to Google accounts or services”.

"We commit to only using patient data to help improve care, under the instructions of our partners, who will continue to act as our data controllers at all times," DeepMind said at the time.

"Each of our partnerships have strict rules about how data can be used. We will never use patient data outside of these rules. That means data will never be connected to Google accounts or services, or used for any commercial purposes like advertising or insurance."

DeepMind, a British artificial intelligence firm, was acquired by Google in 2014. It was founded in 2011 by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, well-known as a computer game prodigy.

A mobile app called Streams was then built; it used medical information to allow clinicians at hospitals to diagnose issues while they were away from their workplaces.

But Google has now folded the app into its main organisation and said that it will be using it as an AI-powered assistant.

"Our vision is for Streams to now become an AI-powered assistant for nurses and doctors everywhere - combining the best algorithms with intuitive design, all backed up by rigorous evidence," the company said.

"The team working within Google, alongside brilliant colleagues from across the organisation, will help make this vision a reality."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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