Financial Times: Big Tech’s Move into Healthcare Industry Creates Medical Privacy Fears

Jeff Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

In a recent article, the Financial Times outlines how Big Tech’s move into the medical industry raises health privacy fears for citizens around the world whose healthcare providers team up with the Masters of the Universe.

The Financial Times reports in a recent article that as big tech firms such as Amazon make a move into the medical world, many worry about the privacy implications of tech giants having access to users’ medical records.

Tech giant Amazon recently announced it would be launching its own pharmacy which promised 80 percent discounts on prescriptions, suggesting that the retailer sees an opportunity in not realizing immediate profits, but rather convincing users to sign up in order to gain access to a much more valuable long term investment — user data.

The Financial Times writes:

Health data has been described as an “open frontier” that tech companies are positioning themselves to exploit. The opportunity goes beyond the health information that should be protected by doctor-patient confidentiality. More vulnerable is health-related data gathered outside the doctor-patient relationship via training and fitness devices as well as features in digital personal assistants — such as Amazon’s Echo smart speaker.

The argument that health data needs protection is clear. Any commercialisation of personal data — even data provided by the users themselves — needs to first address confidentiality and intended purpose.

Take the craze for fitness self-tracking. When the US Federal Trade Commission tested 12 apps and two wearable devices in 2014, it found that they transmitted data to no fewer than 76 undisclosed third parties. No wonder Google was willing to pay $2.1bn for Fitbit in November 2019.

Concerns have also been raised about the privacy terms of the third-party apps that tech groups integrate into their home personal assistant devices and mobile phone interfaces, often to gather health-related data. The way in which these systems collect data is not always apparent to users, as illustrated in the cases revealed last year of various menstruation apps that were sharing information about women’s sexual lives with Facebook. This sharing was sometimes initiated even before the user agreed to the app’s privacy terms.

Breitbart News reported in November 2019 that Google had secretly accessed the medical records of tens of millions of people in 21 states after partnering with health systems.

Read more at the Financial Times here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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