Amazon's PillPack deal gives it access to sensitive health data

Last week's acquisition of pharmacy startup PillPack will give Amazon insight into consumers' prescriptions, potentially raising privacy concerns.

Last week's acquisition of pharmacy startup PillPack will give Amazon insight into consumers' prescriptions, potentially raising privacy concerns. Amazon has mastered the use of personal data by analyzing people's purchasing decisions, but collecting and safeguarding medical information is far more complex than tracking when an online shopper buys a new lamp. The company's acquisition of PillPack comes as technology companies including Facebook and Google draw scrutiny from lawmakers over the use of consumers' data. The health care market is highly regulated, and while marketers can freely exchange data on consumers’ nonprescription purchases, demographics, and browsing activity, the federal government tightly controls the privacy of medical information through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Ryan Stark, senior privacy attorney with the law firm of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, said Amazon likely would need to wall off PillPack from its larger operation. Otherwise, it might have to take steps to ensure the entire business meets federal privacy standards, which govern everything from who has access to data to how user passwords are encrypted. An Amazon spokeswoman said the company will comply with HIPAA as well as with all other laws and regulations.