Viewpoint: How Amazon Alexa is changing privacy in healthcare

Amazon Alexa users in the U.K. can now ask the digital assistant medical questions and receive answers from the National Health Service, leaving many to question how privacy will be affected, according to Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus.

Patients in the U.K. can use Alexa to ask about treating migraines or symptoms of chicken pox. In turn, Alexa will respond with answers that have been provided and approved by NHS. In the U.S., Alexa users can get general health information from WebMD and Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic.

The partnership between Amazon and NHS gives the technology giant the ability to collect vast amounts of personal health information, reports the Times. In the U.S., HIPAA does not cover Alexa, leaving Amazon to collect and store almost any and all information.

A spokesperson for Amazon said that "all information is treated with high confidentiality."

"Amazon is not sharing any of this information with third parties," the spokesperson told the Times. "Nor is it selling products or making product recommendations based on this health information, nor is it building a health profile on customers."

An employee at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle said the company is always looking to improve Alexa's "knowledge graph." The company did decline to answer if a similar deal would be made with Medicare or other U.S. healthcare providers.

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