20:19 GMT12 April 2021
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    It’s unclear why Hassabis was asked to attend the crucial meeting, and his presence may prove controversial given SAGE provides top-level guidance to the Cabinet Office, and Google has been at the forefront of efforts to profit from the crisis, including via mass rollout of big data provisions across the healthcare industry.

    It’s been confirmed Demis Hassabis, co–founder of Google’s controversial artificial intelligence division, attended and participated in the UK government’s scientific advisory group on Covid-19 meeting 18th March.

    The DeepMind originator attended the scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) summit at the precise point it was being considered whether the UK should enter lockdown, on the invitation of chief scientific adviser and SAGE chair Patrick Vallance.

    ​DeepMind has previously processed millions of healthcare records provided by an NHS hospital trust as part of a plan to design a diagnostic app - the arrangement was later found to have contravened data protection laws. Moreover, in 2019 Google inked a deal with US hospital chain Ascension, granting it access to the health data of millions of Americans without their express consent.

    A spokesperson for Google’s DeepMind confirms Hassabis was one of several scientists asked to contribute his thoughts on the UK government’s response to coronavirus, was a full participant in the meeting and not required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The spokesperson said they did not know whether the request to involve Hassabis in Sage came from the prime minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, as has been reported.

    It was revealed to some outcry last week Cummings and Ben Warner, a Downing Street data scientist with whom Cummings worked closely on the Vote Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum, and former director of artificial intelligence startup Faculty, which is currently working on a health data-mining operation that forms part of the government’s response to coronavirus, have attended several SAGE meetings.

    It’s seemingly unprecedented for Downing Street political advisers to attend SAGE meetings, and the body is supposed to be entirely independent and impartial. SAGE attendees have anonymously confirmed Cummings and Warner have both been active participants in meetings, with Cummings reportedly pressuring Sage to recommend the UK immediately adopt lockdown measures to halt the transmission of coronavirus.

    ​In fact, Boris Johnson’s controversial chief adviser is said to have gone for far as to have “swayed” discussions toward faster action, making clear he believed pubs and restaurants across the country should be closed within two days”.


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