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Alexa Now Gives U.K. Users N.H.S. Medical Advice


Amazon also denied these charges on Wednesday.

The company insisted that they are not building health profiles, that no health information will be used to sell merchandise or make product recommendations, and that none of the information will be shared with third parties.

“Customer trust is of utmost importance, and Amazon take privacy seriously,” said Gemma Cook, a spokeswoman for Alexa, on Wednesday, adding that customers could also control their voice history by reviewing or deleting voice recordings.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, agreed that the system could help free up more doctors’ appointments “for those patients who need them most.”

But she said that N.H.S. advice from Alexa could “create a ‘digital divide,’” with better service available to those who could afford a smart speaker. The cheapest Echo device currently costs just under 25 pounds, about $31, in Britain.

Rachel Coldicutt, the chief executive of Doteveryone, a research institute that advocates for responsible technology, said that the system “gives Amazon an opportunity to understand much more about people’s illnesses, behaviors and problems,” and could give the company data to help it start a health care business or a pharmacy.

Amazon bought PillPack, an online pharmacy, last year.

But Ms. Coldicutt said that she was less concerned about the privacy implications of Alexa’s offering N.H.S. advice than “the comparative advantage it gives to Amazon.”

“If an elderly person is choosing between smart speakers, they are more likely to get an Echo,” she added.


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