Three years ago, artificial intelligence company DeepMind embarked on a landmark effort to transform health care in the U.K. Now plans by owner Alphabet Inc. to wrap the partnership into its Google search engine business are tripping alarm bells about privacy.
Data protection advocates cried foul when the company reversed course on an earlier pledge to keep DeepMind Health, which taps millions of British medical records to monitor and diagnose disease, separate from Google. This month Alphabet said it plans to consolidate the businesses.
While Google says it will continue to ring-fence the patient data, critics say the potential for abuse is significant: What if the company later backtracks and pairs medical records with its search engine and Gmail app, which harbor extensive information on users’ daily lives? That would present a formidable risk to privacy, they say, and could cost patients and providers dearly if the company converted the data into high-priced products.