Alexa, does this look infected to you? Amazon’s online MD

Weblog: Team-up with NHS will allow elderly and visually impaired get health information

Doctor! Doctor! Do you really want Alexa to  know all your medical issues?

Doctor! Doctor! Do you really want Alexa to know all your medical issues?

 

There’s no need to Google your symptoms anymore if you are an Alexa owner in the UK. Amazon has teamed up with the NHS to offer a novel way of accessing health information. Now, when you ask Alexa something along the lines of “Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?” Amazon’s algorithm will use information from the NHS website rather than a general search across the web.

The NHS says it will help “the elderly, blind and those who cannot access the internet through traditional means, to get professional, NHS-verified health information in seconds, through simple voice commands”.

Voice searches

For those worrying about the privacy implications, it is worth considering that these voice searches are as secure as any other data that goes through an Alexa device. So keep in mind the recent case where an Amazon user requested a log of his personal data from the company only to be sent a zipped file of 1,700 recordings belonging to someone else. Or that time an Alexa accidentally recorded a woman’s private conversation and sent it to her husband’s employee.

More worryingly, technology ethicist Mathana Stender told the BBC, the sensitive data holdings of a national healthcare provider such as the NHS are a form of ‘critical social infrastructure’. Yet they’ve been handed to a foreign company that’s both a defence contractor and targeted advertiser.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/nhs-health-information-available-through-amazon-s-alexa