People will now be able to ask their Amazon Alexa device for health advice from the NHS, the British government has announced.
Starting from this week, the voice assistant will automatically search the NHS Choices website when UK users ask health-related queries. The Department of Health says this could reduce patient demand on the health service, with people able to check their symptoms against online information more easily.
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The partnership between Amazon and the government was first announced last year, with talks also underway with other tech companies to set up a similar platform. Previously, of course, health responses were based on popular responses.
So, how will it work? Well, if a user was to ask their Amazon Echo something like, "Alexa, what are the symptoms of a migraine?", or, "Alexa, how do you treat chickenpox?", it's able to then find this information through the NHS website. Simple enough, right?
However, while it will no doubt prove to be a handy way of receiving quick information, there's naturally concerns over privacy, too. Just this year, Amazon has been involved in a number of high-profile battles related to user data, likely raising user concerns over what having Alexa in the home actually entails.
Just to catch you up: it was reported that thousands of Amazon workers were listening to non-anonymized voice recordings for training purposes, then the company unveiled new Alexa privacy commands and a new Echo Dot Kids Edition - right before two lawsuits opened alleging that the company didn't have the proper consent to create digital voiceprints of kids. Then, last week, Amazon confirmed it stores data around voice recordings indefinitely.
We opined that these controversies signal the time for Amazon to be more transparent over privacy. And, relating to this latest partnership with the NHS and the UK government, the company will no doubt be keen to reiterate that is does not share information with third parties, and that customers can delete voice recordings.
Not sure how to manage Alexa voice history? Learn how with our complete guide.