- 10 July 2019
- 2 min read
Amazon insists Alexa health info will stay safe
The partnership between the NHS and Amazon is being led by a new digital health body, NHSX.
Amazon has defended its new partnership with the NHS, insisting it takes customer privacy seriously.
Campaigners have criticised a move to provide verified health information via Amazon's Alexa, saying it is a "data protection disaster waiting to happen".
Until now, people asking Alexa a health question would be given an answer based on a variety of popular responses.
But the new partnership means Alexa will now give answers based on information from the official NHS website, which has been verified by health professionals.
The aim is to help patients, especially the elderly, the blind and those who are unable to access the internet in other ways to take more control of their healthcare and help reduce the burden on the NHS.
However, the move has been met with scepticism, with Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, saying: "Encouraging the public to give their private health details to one of the most aggressive corporate data guzzlers is astonishingly misguided.
"Amazon's Alexa records what people say, stores recordings in data centres we know nothing about, and exploits our data for profit.
"This scheme will likely result in people being profiled and targeted by data brokers based on their deeply personal health concerns.
"Healthcare is made inaccessible when trust and privacy are stripped away, and that's what this terrible plan would do. It's a data protection disaster waiting to happen."
Amazon said in a statement that "customer trust is the utmost importance, and Amazon take privacy seriously."
It added: "Customers are in control of their voice history. They can review and delete voice recordings in the Alexa App or by visiting amazon.co.uk/privacy.
"They can also opt-in to 'delete what I just said' or "delete what I said today'."
Amazon said it would not share any information with third parties, nor is it selling products or making product recommendations based on the health information.
It said it will not build a health profile of customers and all information is treated with the highest confidentiality.