Privacy experts alarmed as Amazon moves into the health care industry image

Washington Post, January 30, 2018
Abha Bhattarai, quoting I. Glenn Cohen (Faculty Director)

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Amazon.com on Tuesday announced a joint partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan to create an independent health-care company for their employees, putting an end to months of speculation that the technology giant was eyeing a foray into the medical industry. It’s yet another endeavor for the company, which last year spent $13.7 billion to enter the grocery business with its acquisition of Whole Foods Market. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.)

But as the online retailer expands into new industries — cloud computing, drones, tech gadgets, moviemaking and now health care — some privacy experts say the company’s increasingly dominant role in our lives raises concerns about how personal data is collected and used. What happens, for example, when a company that has access to our weekly shopping lists, eating habits and in-home Alexa-based assistants also becomes involved in our medical care?

“Amazon already has huge amounts of our data — we give it to them in exchange for two-day shipping,” said I. Glenn Cohen, a Harvard Law School professor who specializes in health law policy. “But what happens when you add in actual health-care data? Many people are already concerned about who has access to that information, and this exacerbates those concerns.”

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