“Whenever it is health data, we should be very suspicious,” says Sandra Wachter, a professor at Oxford University who researches the legal and ethical implications of AI, big data and robotics. “Everyone has an interest in learning more about people’s health.” Wachter notes that while Amazon having access to your data may not pose a risk right now, no one knows what will change in the future. Look, she says, to what happened with period tracker apps when Roe vs. Wade was overturned: What started as a supposedly empowering way for women to take charge of their own health data became a risk that this data could be used to determine whether a person had terminated a pregnancy.
Smith told WIRED that Amazon keeps patient health information confidential and secure in accordance with federal laws and regulations, and in line with industry standards; Amazon Clinic customer data will be protected through the use of HIPAA compliant encryption methods. “The protection of patient information is an important part of our business; we are not in the business of selling or sharing it,” Smith wrote.
Amazon’s recent efforts to break into healthcare raise a more fundamental question: should Big Tech even be allowed in the sector? The motivations of a private company — efficiency, optimization and, above all, profit — don’t exactly mesh with serving the public good, says Tamar Sharon, a professor at Radboud University in the Netherlands whose work explores politics and ethics. of Big Tech. in health and medicine, or as she calls it, the “Googleization of health.”
Amazon Care, a telehealth service that Amazon piloted among its employees and then rolled out to other customers, shows how things can go wrong. Its closure was announced a few months ago, with the senior vice president in charge of the program, Neil Lindsay, writing in an internal memo Amazon shared with WIRED: “While our enrolled members loved many aspects of Amazon Care, it’s not an offer. comprehensive enough for the large enterprise customers we were targeting, and it wasn’t going to work long term.”
But it was also plagued with other problems. A Washington Post research alleged that moving at maximum speed and efficiency sometimes conflicted with best practice in medicine: For example, nurses were asked to process blood samples from patients in their personal cars, the newspaper reported, and to store and dispose of medical supplies in the home, to which they protested. (Amazon told the Mail that they could not find records of complaints about these matters).
“Amazon Care followed common home care practices and knows they are safe and appropriate,” Smith told WIRED. “For example, Amazon Care doctors were always equipped with Stericycle medical waste return kits to return or dispose of supplies properly and safely.”
For Sharon, a big concern is how dependent we risk becoming on big business as mediators of fundamental public needs. “This is a dangerous situation: we would depend on a handful of private actors for the distribution of very basic goods, such as health, education or public services,” she says. For example, as these companies increasingly background Y to carry out their own research, they may be able to influence how the research agenda is set. That could be a problem if Tech founders’ penchant for wanting to live forever results in a focus on funding longevity research on, for example, cancer treatments.