Data-driven tools and techniques, particularly machine learning methods that underpin artificial intelligence, offer promise in improving healthcare systems and services. One of the companies aspiring to pioneer these advances is DeepMind Technologies Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Google conglomerate, Alphabet Inc. In 2016, DeepMind announced its first major health project: a collaboration with the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, to assist in the management of acute kidney injury. Initially received with great enthusiasm, the collaboration has suffered from a lack of clarity and openness, with issues of privacy and power emerging as potent challenges as the project has unfolded. Taking the DeepMind-Royal Free case study as its pivot, this article draws a number of lessons on the transfer of population-derived datasets to large private prospectors, identifying critical questions for policy-makers, industry and individuals as healthcare moves into an algorithmic age.
Keywords: Artificial intelligence; Clinical care; Consent; Data protection; Machine learning; Power; Privacy; Regulation.