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Cloud Legal Project

Data Trusts

A screen of code with a padlock in front

This research is being conducted by Alexandra Mezulanik, Dimitra Kamarinou and Chris Reed, and considers the legal implications of Big Tech’s ongoing expansion into the market of healthcare, focusing on the control of and access to data. The project will produce three papers which examine data sharing in the health sector.


The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for advancing many things (like medical research and enabling virtual communication) at a previously inconceivable speed and capacity.  Commercial entities (e.g. Big Tech, start-ups later acquired by Big Tech and biotech companies), hospitals, universities and governments are all cross-collaborating in the COVID-research space.  There are compelling arguments to standardise the collection and flow of health data in preparation for the next health crisis, but also to improve current healthcare models.


Big Tech offers numerous solutions in this area.  Some relate to their existing infrastructure and cloud services, others to using AI (e.g. for applications in speech recognition and diagnoses) and smart devices.  They have the size, the technology, the algorithms and the know-how to exploit health data.  Alexandra Mezulanik's paper investigates some of the relevant Big Tech players (i.e. Amazon, Microsoft and Google), identifies what information (or copies of information) those various players access and control while considering potential legal/practical rights and remedies.  This research eschews assertions about the ‘ownership’ of data.  It instead looks at control and access by relying on IP principles to review how competition law and big data interface.


The paper by Dimitra Kamarinou also examines control, but from the perspective of external regulatory controls. Data protection law aims to limit the sharing and use of personal data, splitting control between the data subject and a supervising authority. The professional standards and conduct rules of the medical profession aim at preserving patient confidentiality through a combination of informed consent and medical ethics. The paper will identify how these two systems of regulation combine to affect data sharing.


The third paper by Chris Reed investigates how governance structures can be used for data sharing to establish rules for sharing and use of data, engender trust between those who have interests in data and those who receive and use it, and to assist in legal and regulatory compliance.

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