Amazon gets free use of health data under Alexa advice deal

The Sunday Times obtained information via a freedom of information request that shows that the NHS contract with Amazon for NHS data will allow the company access to information on symptoms, causes and definitions of conditions, and “all related copyrightable content and data and other materials”

In July the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said a partnership with the NHS that allowed Amazon Alexa devices to offer expert health advice to users would reduce pressure on “our hard-working GPs and pharmacists”.

The contract enables Amazon to create “new products, applications, cloud-based services and/or distributed software”, but the NHS will not benefit from these financially. It can also share the information with third parties. The contract is global, in contrast to current standard contracts with third parties, such as local authorities, who can only reuse information from the NHS website in the UK.

Amazon is worth $863bn and is run by the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos.

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told the Sunday Times that the government was “highly irresponsible” and “in the pocket of big corporate interests”.

The Guardian reports that Eva Blum-Dumontet, a senior researcher at Privacy International, which obtained the contract, said the issue with the partnership was not about “data sharing” but about “transparency”. Several sections have been redacted by the Department of Health and Social Care to protect Amazon’s commercial interests.

Full story in The Guardian, 8 December 2019

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