Google asks London court to throw out lawsuit over medical records

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in New York City, U.S., January 20, 2023. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Google asked London's High Court on Tuesday to throw out a lawsuit brought on behalf of 1.6 million people over medical records provided to the tech giant by a British hospital trust.

The Royal Free London NHS Trust transferred patient data to Google's artificial intelligence firm DeepMind Technologies in 2015 in relation to the development of a mobile app designed to analyse medical records and detect acute kidney injuries.

Britain's data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office, said in 2017 that the Royal Free, which is part of the public National Health Service, misused patient data when it provided the information to DeepMind.

Google and DeepMind were sued last year by Royal Free patient Andrew Prismall on behalf of 1.6 million people for alleged misuse of private information.

But the companies' lawyers argue that the case is "bound to fail" and should be thrown out of court.

Antony White, representing Google and DeepMind, said in court filings that the majority of the claimants "did not suffer any tangible consequence, let alone detriment or distress, as a result" of their information being provided to DeepMind.

"The class also includes a substantial number of individuals who positively benefited from – potentially life-saving – clinical care which was made possible," White added.

Google argues there is no prospect of establishing that all 1.6 million claimants' private information was misused, or that they had any expectation of privacy in relation to the information.

However, Prismall's lawyer Timothy Pitt-Payne said in court filings that every claimant "had their patient-identifiable medical records transferred ... and therefore suffered the same loss of control".

"Every wrongful transfer of medical records merits an award of damages," he added. Pitt-Payne argued that the case should move forward towards a trial.

The hearing of Google and DeepMind's application is due to conclude on Wednesday and a ruling is expected at a later date.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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