Big Tech can now listen to and watch everything you do. They want to replace your medical doctor as well.

Health Impact News

The September newsletter of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is sounding the warning about Big Tech’s plans to take over medical care as Americans increasingly turn over their privacy for the sake of convenience.


Dr. Robot is visiting patients in some places but could be displaced by Dr. Alexa, the virtual assistant in Amazon smart speakers, who is already able to perform certain health-related tasks. “She” can track blood glucose levels, describe symptoms, access post-surgical care instructions, monitor home prescription deliveries, and make appointments at an urgent care center.

Amazon has big ambitions. It thinks Alexa could help doctors diagnose mental illness, autism, concussions, and Parkinson disease. Alexa, the iPhone 5s, and the Samsung Galaxy S4 can correctly identify agonal breathing, an early warning sign in about half of all cardiac arrests, in 97% of instances, while registering a false positive only 0.2% of the time. The smart phone is constantly listening. Patented technology from the University of Washington  differentiates coughs and sneezes from other background noises;  Alexa could discern when someone is ill and suggest solutions.

Since Alexa won permission to use protected patient health records controlled under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), vast new opportunities are open. It could listen in on patient-physician interactions to take notes on visits, even suggesting possible treatments and writing up medical notes automatically.

Alexa could potentially combat loneliness. It is “learning” how to make conversation.

In 2018, private equity and venture capital firms have invested a record $10 billion in startups touting the benefits of virtual doctor visits and telemedicine. A startup called Kinetxx will provide patients with virtual physical therapy, along with messaging and exercise logging. And Maven Clinic, which is not actually a physical place, offers online medical guidance and personal advice focusing on women’s health needs.

Amazon now has a deal with the British National Health Service (NHS) to provide patient access to “reliable, world-leading N.H.S. advice from the comfort of their home,” freeing up more doctors’ appointments. An NHS spokesman said no patient data would be shared. Amazon insisted that it is not building health profiles, that no health information will be used to sell merchandise or make product recommendations, and that none of the information will be shared with third parties.

But given past concerns about how Alexa-enabled devices handle their users’ information, social media users expressed caution or disdain. Big Brother Watch calls Amazon “one of the most aggressive corporate data guzzlers” and worries about people being profiled and targeted based on health concerns. The data “gives Amazon an opportunity to understand much more about people’s illnesses, behaviors and problems,” and could help it start a health-related business or a pharmacy.

Blocking Alternative Health Information

Big Tech giants such as Google are set to block all “alternative” medicine websites such as They will not only be eliminated  from search results, but within a year or so, the Google Chrome browser won’t even allow a  user to visit a disapproved site—say one that is skeptical about vaccines, chemotherapy, or statin drugs—without changing the browser’s default settings. According to some reports, websites promoting conservatism, Christianity, or Donald Trump may also be blocked.  Moreover, the Chrome browser may report back to Google on attempts to access banned sites, and add that to a social penalty score like that used in Communist China.

Geoffrey Fowler writes that “Google’s Web browser [Chrome] has become spy software” (Wash Post 6/21/19).

Doctors are under surveillance by the electronic health record (EHR). Newer versions of  EPIC, for example, allow an auditor to see every keystroke and mouse movement,  identify text that has been imported or copied and pasted, and tell how fast the transfer was done and whether that text has been edited.

While presented as a “patient safety” measure, the tool can be used to “describe documentation practices by medical students, residents, and direct care hospitalists.” If anyone with  proper password can see this information, so can compliance staff and payers. The information can be used not just for “mentoring,” but for corporate coercion and seeking evidence of fraud. Note that computers also have built-in microphones and cameras.

Alexa may be seeing you always—like the government “she” also serves, “a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

Identifying “Mental Illness”

The Trump Administration is reportedly considering a proposal to use Google, Amazon Echo, and Apple Watch to collect data on users who exhibit characteristics of mental illness that could lead to violent behavior. This is part of the initiative to create a Health Advanced Research Project Agency (HARPA), which got a renewed push after August shootings in El Paso and Dayton. HARPA would be modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research arm for the Pentagon. HARPA would develop “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence,” according to a copy of the proposal. “A multi-modality solution, along with real-time data analytics, is needed to achieve such an accurate diagnosis.”

The surveillance scheme, called “Safe Home” (Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes), promises that privacy will be “safeguarded,” profiling “avoided,” and that data protection capabilities would be a “cornerstone of this effort.”  Michelle Malkin reminds us, however, that “Google has already admitted to data mining children’s emails without consent and in violation of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”

Thousands, if not millions, of children are required to sign on to Google email and Chrome in order to access homework, schedules, and classroom discussions. They are forced to  use laptops and tablets loaded with Google for Education, when paper and pencil would suffice. An app called E-Hallpass even keeps track of how much time is spent in the bathroom.

Mental health data mining is already happening, with students rated on how well they “cooperate and share ideas and materials in socially acceptable ways.” And who defines these terms? Malkin writes that we need to “de-platform Google and the other data-mining predators from public schools now.” And what about medical institutions?

Read the full newsletter.