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  1. Tech giants want medical data and privacy advocates are worried Google is being sued in a potential class-action lawsuit which accuses the tech giant of inappropriately accessing sensitive medical records belonging to hundreds of thousands of hospital patients. The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, is the latest example of how tech giants’ forays into the trillion-dollar healthcare industry are being met by concerns over privacy. In recent years, companies including Microsoft, Apple, and Google have all pitched their services to medical institutions, promising that they can help organize medical data and use this information to develop new AI diagnostic tools. But these plans are often met with resistance from privacy advocates, who say that this data will give tech giants an unprecedented view into the lives of their customers. The lawsuit in question, which was first reported by The New York Times, is concerned with a deal made in 2017 between Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center (also a defendant). Google was given access to patient records from the University of Chicago Medicine between 2009 and 2016, which it said it would use to develop new AI tools. In a blog post at the time, Google said it was ready to start “accurately predicting medical events — such as whether patients will be hospitalized, how long they will stay, and whether their health is deteriorating.” The company also noted it would use “de-identified medical records” from Chicago that would be “stripped of any personally identifiable information.” Wednesday’s lawsuit claims that the company failed to do this. “In reality, these records were not sufficiently anonymized and put the patients’ privacy at grave risk,” it says. Crucially, the lawsuit says Google received records of when patients were admitted and discharged from the medical center, a potential violation of the federal health data privacy regulation known as HIPAA. This information, says the suit, could be combined with location data collected by Google’s Android mobile OS to reveal individual patients’ identities. The rest of the information covered in the records is detailed. It includes individuals’ height, weight, and vital signs; whether they suffer from diseases like cancer or AIDS; and records of recent of recent medical procedures, including transplants and and abortions. The suit says the University of Chicago Medical Center also failed in its duties. “[T]he University did not notify its patients, let alone obtain their express consent, before turning over their confidential medical records to Google for its own commercial gain.” In the UK, Google’s DeepMind subsidiary made “inexcusable” errors while handling patient data, used to create its assistant Streams app. The lawsuit notably is similar to complaints made against Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind in the UK. There, DeepMind made a deal in 2015 to access patient records from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), which it used to develop an app for doctors and nurses. An investigation by the UK’s data watchdog found that the deal “failed to comply with data protection law,” and that DeepMind made “inexcusable” errors while handling the data. DeepMind later rewrote its contracts with the NHS and established new independent advisory boards to scrutinize its activities. These boards were shut down when the DeepMind department concerned, DeepMind Health, was absorbed into Google. Google and the University of Chicago Medical Center both deny the accusations laid out in the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Google told 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.” A spokesperson for the University of Chicago also told the Times that the claims were “without merit.” Lawsuits such as these are often launched with the intent of attracting more plaintiffs. The lawsuit currently focuses on a single complaint by Matt Dinerstein, who was admitted to the Chicago University Medical Center in 2015. Source
  2. A new class-action lawsuit claims that Apple is “intentionally and unlawfully” disclosing its customers’ iTunes listening data to third parties in violation of state privacy laws. The lawsuit from three individuals from two states, Rhode Island and Michigan, was filed Friday in a California district court, Bloomberg reported Friday. According to the lawsuit, which was published by AppleInsider, the company’s “disclosures of the Personal Listening Information of Plaintiffs and the other unnamed Class members were not only unlawful, they were also dangerous because such disclosures allow for the targeting of particularly vulnerable members of society.” The suit alleges that Apple has or is sharing data with third parties who can “supplement that information with additional sensitive personal information” that the company discloses about its customers. Many of these third parties, the suit claims, “have in turn re-disclosed plaintiffs’ and other unnamed class members’ personal listening information to other third parties for further exploitation and monetization—all without providing prior notice to or obtaining the requisite consent from anyone.” As apparent proof of the allegation, the suit points to marketing entities who sell this information. “For example, any person or entity could rent a list with the names and addresses of all unmarried, college-educated women over the age of 70 with a household income of over $80,000 who purchased country music from Apple via its iTunes Store mobile application,” the suit states. “Such a list is available for sale for approximately $136 per thousand customers listed.” Sharing data about consumers’ listening habits can reveal intimate information about them, the lawsuit claims, and can put them at risk of predatory behavior from “fraudulent telemarketers” and others looking to take advantage of vulnerable groups. The suit names at least two marketing entities that allegedly sell such lists. In addition, the lawsuit claims that Apple, without first obtaining permission from its customers, shared detailed user listening data via its developers tools. Issues with the way user listening data was being shared with developers in the past were raised by Ben Dodson on his blog in January of 2016 as well as in a bug report to the company. The suit claims that despite contacting Dodson informing him that the company was aware of the issue, Apple did not resolve it until roughly eight months later with the release of iOS 10. The class action lawsuit is being brought by the plaintiffs on behalf of other Apple customers in their respective states who “had their personal listening information disclosed to third parties by Apple without their consent.” The suit is seeking $250 each for those Apple customers in Rhode Island and $5,000 each for those in Michigan. Apple did not immediately return a request for comment. Source
  3. As more and more reports of flaws in the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers surface, a New England law firm is championing the players with a lawsuit against the company. If you haven’t experienced it, the fault occurs sometimes in Joy-Con that have been in use for a while. The Switch will react as if the thumbstick is being moved even when it’s not being touched, which can obviously cause some gameplay problems. The so-called “Joy-Con drift” has never really been explained. Is it the result of a hardware problem or stress from use? Nintendo isn’t saying, and I can’t even find a reliable source who knows what part of the Joy-Con causes the drift. Regardless, the legal team of Chimicles, Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith have filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the affected users, claiming Nintendo‘s lack of response to this defect constitutes an unfair or deceptive business practice — and it’s replicated the complaints from Reddit and the Nintendo Support forums to support its case. Part of the complaint (which you can read in full here) hinges on the idea that Nintendo knew about the drift problem, but shipped the console anyway: Defendant controls the manufacture, development, marketing, sales, and support for the Switch and Joy-Con controllers. Accordingly, Defendant was responsible for performing pre-release testing on the Switch and Joy-Con controllers which should have alerted it to the defect. The Switch was first released in March 2017 and is still on the market today. Despite knowing about the Joy-Con defect, Defendant continues to market and sell the Switch and Joy-Con controllers (through third-party retailers) without disclosing the defect. Another concern is that, when contacted about the problem, Nintendo won’t fix it for free. From what I’ve seen in the anecdotal evidence of others (my own Joy-Con are thankfully drift-free), the company‘s solution appears to be “buy new Joy-Con.” Not that this surprises me — this is the company that responds to requests for return on digital goods with, “Well why didn’t you read reviews first?” But whether it’s actually illegal or unfair will probably be the backbone of the issue. As for what reparations the company can give, the law firm says in the complaint the plaintiffs want “injunctive relief in the form of a recall or free replacement program [and] Equitable relief in the form of buyback of the devices.” We’ve contacted the law firm for more information. If you want to submit your own experience with Joy-Con drift to Chimicles, Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith, you can do so here. Source
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