The information about data held by the U.K. National Health service (NHS) relates to England and the process was only revealed through a a government contract obtained through freedom of information legislation and reported by the British Medical Association.
Amazon has been given access to all the information free of charge, although the data gathering process is being paid for by the NHS (which is funded by British taxpayers). With the data, The Guardian reports that Amazon will be able to access to information on symptoms, causes and definitions of conditions.
According to UK-based advocacy group Privacy International: “We should not be naïve about the intentions of big companies that are preying over the NHS…The NHS must not become another advertising asset for big tech companies, nor should we take the risk to see cuts to traditional helplines and sources of information.”
Commenting on the issue, Lux Research Analyst Nardev Ramanathan tells Digital Journal: 3Revelations have emerged that the National Health Service (NHS)’s contract with Amazon to give patients health advice via the Alexa home assistant gives Amazon access to virtually all healthcare and related copyrightable data for free.”
Having outlined the issue, Ramanathan explains what the data could be used for: “Amazon could in theory build any product or application it wants and offer such services outside the U.K borders with that data. Unlike Project Nightingale’s, where Google was using a loophole in outdated legislation, here the NHS appears to have a poorly negotiated deal with Amazon.”
He also highlights the data privacy issues: “The NHS is known as one of the most digitalized healthcare systems in the world, but this is a case where technology adoption should not take precedence over rigor in negotiation and health data stewardship.”