Google almost published 100,000 X-rays, then realized serious privacy issues

The future of medicine is digital. But is it secure

The future of medicine is digital. But is it secure? Image Getty Images

Google cancelled a project to publish more than 100,000 human chest X-rays online days before the data was supposed to go live after realizing they contained personally identifiable information, reports The Washington Post.

The scheme, dubbed Project Nightingale, was agreed with Ascension, which hopes to develop artificial intelligence tools for doctors.

Two days before the conference was to begin, NIH staffers alerted Google that several dozen chest X-rays they'd previously cleared still had information attached they feared could be used to identify the patient, including dates and distinctive jewelry.

Over the course of planning the X-ray mission, Google's researchers did not receive any authorized agreements overlaying the privateness of affected person info, the individual mentioned, including that the corporate rushed towards publicly saying the mission with out correctly vetting the information for privateness considerations.

'Out of an abundance of caution, and in the interest of protecting personal privacy, we elected to not host the NIH dataset'. "We deleted all images from our internal systems and did not pursue further work with NIH", a Google spokesperson said. The emails about Google's NIH mission had been a part of data obtained from a Freedom of Data Act request.

Google has gained access to a huge trove of U.S. patient data - without the need to notify those patients - thanks to a deal with a major health firm.

A federal investigation is targeting Google's "Project Nightingale" health information collection program.

The partnership between Google and Ascension will integrate Ascension's different areas of health data in the cloud.

"They use those data to build models of all of us to make better and better predictions about what we need, what we want, what we do", says Dr. Robert Epstein, a Harvard professor who has been tracking Google algorithms. Earlier this month, the search giant said it's buying Fitbit, a fitness tracker company, for $2.1 billion. Many are turning to AI in an effort to sharpen their services, but such moves have sometimes faced criticism over how sensitive patient data is handled. In 2017, its United Kingdom subsidiary, DeepMind, was found to have broken the law in its handling of hospital records, and Google is also being sued for alleged inappropriate access to medical data from the University of Chicago Medical Center. The NIH eventually scrubbed the identifiable information and partnered with another big tech company, the cloud storage firm Box, for the X-ray project.

"There's a massive issue that these public-private partnerships are all done under private contracts, so it's quite hard to get some transparency", said Prof Jane Kaye at the University of Oxford.

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