A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) subsidiary DeepMind Technologies over an alleged data breach of data protection laws.

UK law firm Mishcon de Reya has filed a claim with the UK High Court on behalf of lead plaintiff Andrew Prismall and around 1.6 million other individuals whose personal records were accessed by DeepMind as part of an NHS partnership.

In 2015, DeepMind and the NHS announced a collaboration for developing app, Streams, for clinicians treating kidney disease. The idea was to streamline access to patient data and alert clinical teams as soon as test results show that a patient is at risk of developing acute kidney injury.

However, when the data-sharing agreement was made public it was revealed that DeepMind was gaining access to a wide range of data including discharge and transfer, admissions, accidents, emergencies, critical care, pathology and radiology data. The NHS would be sharing access to five years’ worth of medical records of patients without gaining their consent. 

In 2017, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) sanctioned the NHS for failing to comply with the country’s Data Protection Act: “an ICO investigation found several shortcomings in how the data was handled, including that patients were not adequately informed that their data would be used as part of the test,” said the UK data protection regulator. 

Subsequently, Mischon de Reya announced that it would bring a class action against DeepMind. Ben Lasserson, the lead partner on the case, said: ”This important claim should help to answer fundamental questions about the handling of sensitive personal data and special category data…It comes at a time of heightened public interest and understandable concern over who has access to people’s personal data and medical records and how this access is managed.”