Google was about to post X-rays with personal data online before NIH stepped in

Days before Google was planning to post more than 100,000 X-ray images online, the National Institutes of Health called the tech giant to intervene, according to The Washington Post

The NIH told Google that some of the images were still labeled with details that could identify patients. Promptly, Google terminated its X-ray project with NIH, according to emails reviewed by The Washington Post and a person close to the matter.

"We take great care to protect patient data and ensure that personal information remains private and secure," Google spokesperson Michael Moeschler told The Washington Post. "Out of an abundance of caution, and in the interest of protecting personal privacy, we elected to not host the NIH dataset. We deleted all images from our internal systems and did not pursue further work with NIH."  

In 2017, the NIH partnered with Google to store patient X-ray scans on the tech giant's cloud platform. Google planned to use the images to create software that could identify diseases based on patients' X-rays. 

The government-funded study collected 112,000 chest X-ray images from 30,00 patients. Many of the patients had lung disease, according to the emails obtained. After analyzing the images, Google planned to release raw, clean images of the X-rays to outside artificial intelligence researchers. 

Once the NIH released the images over to Google, the two worked together to clean the images of patient data. Google had plans to go live with the data July 21. However, on July 19, NIH called Google to notify the company that dozens of images still included patient information, including dates the X-rays were taken and distinctive jewelry, reports The Washington Post

Google then immediately deleted all of the images from its servers and informed the NIH it would no longer continue with the project. 

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