UK health service to use Amazon Alexa to give medical advice

UK health service to use Amazon Alexa to give medical advice
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The United Kingdom's health care service, the NHS, is partnering with Amazon's voice assistant Alexa to deliver medical advice to users from the service’s official website.

The NHS announced Wednesday that the "technology has the potential to reduce the pressure" on doctors, citing the increased use of digital voice assistants for online searches.

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"We want to empower every patient to take better control of their healthcare and technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home, reducing the pressure on our hardworking GPs and pharmacists," Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said in a statement.

The move has raised concerns from privacy experts and advocates concerned about the implications of distributing medical information via digital assistant. 

“Amazon is a company with a worrying track record when it comes to the way they handle their users’ data,” Eva Blum-Dumontet, a researcher at Privacy International, told The Associated Press.

“Our medical information is often the most sensitive data there is about us and a lot can be inferred from the questions we ask and the searches we make when we have health concerns.”

In a letter to Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenators introduce bipartisan bill restricting police use of facial recognition tech Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Bill Gates visits Capitol to discuss climate change with new Senate caucus MORE (D-Conn.) earlier this month, Amazon revealed it keeps voice recordings and transcripts to help train its AI until users manually delete them.

Amazon said it erases transcripts "from all of Alexa's primary storage systems" when users manually delete voice recordings. 

An Amazon spokesperson told The Hill that information related to medical questions will not be shared with third parties or used to create health profiles of users.
 
--Updated at 12:35 p.m.