Online Bookstore and Health Services: No Problem

September 1, 2022

After getting a taste of delectable patient data, Amazon is ready to leap headlong into the healthcare field by purchasing primary-care service One Medical. What could go wrong? Time reporters Roger McNamee and Johnny Ryan answer that rhetorical question in, “Amazon’s Dangerous Ambition to Dominate Healthcare.” Amazon has repeatedly shown it cannot be trusted with personal information, despite its avowals to the contrary. Why would a trove of the most sensitive, and potentially lucrative, data be any different? The article observes:

“Recent scandals revealed that Amazon uses the data collected for supposedly innocent reasons in ways that betray our trust. Amazon staff say there are no limits on how Amazon uses this data internally. According to Amazon’s former head of information security: ‘We have no idea where our [freaking] data is.’ One Medical receives health information about children, families, the elderly, and vulnerable. That includes information about substance abuse, mental health issues, and other intimate conditions. We cannot be confident that Amazon will treat this new data any better than it has treated its existing data hoard. Our secrets are not safe inside Amazon. And it is not just consumers who are at risk. Other companies that compete with or sell through Amazon will almost certainly be harmed. Amazon uses data collected from one part of its business to help other parts. For example, it competes with retailers that sell on its platform by exploiting its insider data about their businesses. More data – especially intimate data – increases Amazon’s market power over consumers and competitors.”

There is one potential obstacle to this deal: the FTC has yet to approve it. The authors urge the commission to nip this especially troublesome tendril of surveillance capitalism now. It would be a welcome sign, they say, that the government is finally ready to protect citizens from big tech’s growing abuse of personal data. One can dream.

Cynthia Murrell, September 1, 20221


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