The British public treasures nothing more than the NHS. We are either complaining about slow services or debating if the beloved NHS should be privatised.
First I must admit something. I am a hypochondriac. In the past couple of years alone, I have had every disease under the sun, and I’m now on the brink of discovering that I may be diabetic. All these diagnoses have something in common — the internet. Well, mostly Google and the NHS’s website.
Now, while I wait to get the results of my blood test, I'm bombarded by ads with suggestions of cures. My Instagram feed reflects the change in my search habits. While I know how to clear my cookies and ban these ads, I can't say the same for everyone else who may fall for these tricks. Social media platforms such as Facebook have longstanding problems with posts containing promises of miracle cures, and unproven scientific claims, all of which end up on your feed based on your search history. Keep that in mind and now think about the collaboration between the NHS and Alexa. Don't get me wrong, and I am a firm believer in the use of tech to make health services accessible to all. However, reflecting upon the way the big giants have treated personal data, how reluctant or slow they have been to protect children, this collaboration makes me feel uncomfortable. This is despite Amazon promising that the data will have end-to-end encryption, and Amazon's algorithm will use information from the NHS website to provide answers to voice question.
To me the thought of big pharmaceuticals having access to personal data, especially medical records is dangerous, and one the NHS should never risk. While the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is doing its best to protect personal data, the NHS & Alexa collaboration coupled with the recent use of AI and facial recognition tools adopted by the police in public places means that we need to reconsider and redefine what is considered personal data.
It's one thing when Alexa helps us order Pizza, but having access to our health concerns carries a different level of risk. Perhaps, the NHS should have developed its own Alexa? One that could be accessed by everyone, like their 111 services, but without the long wait. Even if Alexa was safe to use, not every household could afford the prized voice assistant that the NHS claims will make the NHS accessible to all.
People will be able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices, under a partnership with the NHS, the government has announced.