Users of Echo and Alexa devices in the U.K. will now be able to receive information directly from the NHS when they ask their Amazon devices medical queries. According to the U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care, the joint venture between the NHS and Amazon will allow users “to get professional, NHS-verified health information in seconds.” The department says the venture will be particularly helpful for the elderly, blind, and others who can’t access information on the internet in traditional ways.
Among the queries Alexa users in the U.K. can ask are, “How do I treat a migraine?” “What are the symptoms of flu?” and “What are the symptoms of chickenpox?” Health officials in the U.K. say the partnership will potentially reduce the pressure on the health service and doctors since it will allow many people to get answers for their simpler queries at home.
However, not everyone is pleased with the deal. Civil liberty group Big Brother Watch says Amazon can’t be trusted with people’s personal health queries. As the organization’s director, Silkie Carlo, told the BBC:
Any public money spent on this awful plan rather than frontline services would be a breathtaking waste. Healthcare is made inaccessible when trust and privacy is stripped away, and that’s what this terrible plan would do. It’s a data protection disaster waiting to happen.
Amazon responded to the criticism saying all data is encrypted and confidential and that customers can view their voice history and delete recordings if they wish.