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University of Chicago, Google Sued for Patient Record Sharing

The University of Chicago and Google are being sued by a former patient over the sharing of their records and personal information.

The complaint, which was filed by Matt Dinerstein in the U.S. District Court
 for the Northern District of Illinois and seeks class-action status, alleges the University of Chicago Medical Center of handing over the electronic health records of patients between 2009 to 2016 to Google. The records contained personal and sensitive information, including information about a person’s height, weight, vital signs, and the diseases they suffer from, among others.

In 2017, UChicago Medicine collaborated with Google to study ways to use data in electronic medical records to make discoveries and to use new machine-learning techniques to create predictive models that could help prevent unplanned hospital readmissions, avoid costly complications and save lives.

Google even said that they are using Google Cloud’s state-of-the-art infrastructure to keep digital health records stored securely with the highest level of protection, and are strictly following Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules.

“The University provided Google a partner willing to turn over the information that it desperately needed. Indeed, the University—seeking not much more than notoriety for its collaboration with Google in the development of healthcare products—was happy to turn over the confidential, highly sensitive and HIPAA-protected records of every patient who walked through its doors between 2009 and 2016,” the lawsuit states.

“Ultimately, by getting the University to turn over these records, Google quietly pulled off a feat that other tech giants (like Facebook) have had to abandon under mounting public pressure for other gross privacy violations.”

The suit also alleges the university of breaching nondisclosure contracts with patients. Apparently, patients were promised in admission forms that the university would not disclose their records to third parties for commercial purposes. It also alleges the University of engaging in a cover-up to avoid backlash.

Both Google and the University of Chicago have denied the allegations in separate statements to The New York Times.

“We believe our health care research could help save lives in the future, which is why we take privacy seriously and follow all relevant rules and regulations in our handling of health data,” Jose Castaneda, a spokesman for Google, said.

“The claims in this lawsuit are without merit,” Lorna Wong, a spokeswoman for the University of Chicago Medical Center, added. “The University of Chicago Medical Center has complied with the laws and regulations applicable to patient privacy.”

The plaintiff is seeking all appropriate damages and an injunction-prohibiting Google from using patient records obtained from the University, along with deleting all the patient records.

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