Amazon’s commercial interest is taking priority over the public interest in its contract to share patient data with the Department of Health and Social Care, according to a privacy watchdog.

Following a Freedom of Information request, Privacy International (PI) found the written conditions which outline Amazon’s failure to meet the terms of the agreement had been redacted.

PI said the redaction is concerning. In a statement it said: “This accordingly raises questions as to whether a company recently surrounded by ‘privacy concerns about its use of manual human reviews of Alexa artificial intelligence voice assistant recordings’ could have been granted any potentially ‘privileged’ status under the agreement. And, if not, why would this have to be hidden from the public?” 

PI added: “The agreement between the Department of Health and Amazon seems to clearly allow the latter to use the information provided on the NHS website for a handful of purposes, including advertising or marketing. As Amazon is already making or planning to make moves into healthcare, we find this alarming.”

PI also warned the UK “should not be naïve about the intentions of big companies that are preying over the NHS.” 

In answer to PI’s queries the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We consider that the release of the redacted clauses would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of Amazon on the basis that it would make public the non-standard terms that Amazon has been willing to enter into in respect of this agreement.”

It added: “We consider that this would harm Amazon’s negotiating position when entering into agreements with other parties in the future, which in turn would be likely to prejudice their commercial interests.”

However, PI said in response: “The public should have the right to expect complete transparency, not a heavily redacted contract that leaves us wondering how much time the Department of Health can possibly be requested to give to terminate the contract, or why it was deemed necessary to redact it.”

“The public interest should always prevail over the commercial interest of Amazon and the Department of Health should not jump to conclusion as to what is and is not of interest to the public, as they did in their letter to us.”