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- Amazon has teamed up with the UK’s National Health Service to offer health advice through its Alexa devices.
- Users will be able to ask Alexa simple questions such as “How do I treat a migraine?” or “What are the symptoms of flu?”
- This will trigger an algorithm to search the NHS website and respond with recommendations.
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Amazon has teamed up with the UK National Healthcare Service to offer people health advice through its Alexa devices, in what is being described as a “world-first” collaboration.
According to the British government, users will be able to ask Alexa simple questions such as “How do I treat a migraine?” or “What are the symptoms of flu?” – an algorithm will then search the NHS website and respond with recommendations.
The hope is that this new service will help the elderly or blind patients who cannot access the internet through traditional means. The NHS is also hoping that it will reduce the pressure on its doctors by providing patients with information for common illnesses.
But critics say that there are potential downsides to this new service. First and foremost, it could create data issues.
“It’s a data protection disaster waiting to happen,” Silkie Carlo, director of civil liberty group Big Brother Watch, told the BBC. “Healthcare is made inaccessible when trust and privacy is stripped away, and that’s what this terrible plan would do.”
In a statement to The Times, a spokesperson for Amazon said the company would not share user information with any third parties or use it to build a profile of its customers.
But Amazon’s Alexa device has previously come under scrutiny for privacy reasons. Some users found that their personal conversations had been recorded and then forwarded on to friends in error. And in April, Bloomberg reported that Amazon workers had been listening back to recordings and mocking them online.
This isn’t the only time the Alexa device has been put to use for medical purposes, however. In June, Business Insider reported that the University of Washington is developing new AI technology that could be used on Alexa to detect whether someone is having a heart attack by listening out for unique sounds.