FTC in talks with Apple about health data protection

November 25, 2014 by Tracey Lien, Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is in talks with Apple to ensure that sensitive health data collected by its mobile and wearable devices will not be used without owners' consent.

Apple's latest iPhone operating system, iOS 8, comes with the HealthKit platform, which offers users the ability to track and share a vast range of and points like diet, exercise and activity across multiple apps and devices. The Apple Watch, which will launch early next year, comes with a heart rate sensor, GPS and accelerometer, which tracks a user's heart rate, distance traveled, steps taken and calories burned.

With the wealth of user that Apple will have access to, the FTC is understandably interested in how these data are used.

Apple confirmed that it has met with the FTC for run-of-the-mill discussions about its products and privacy, and two people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Apple representatives have assured agency officials the company will not sell users' health data to third parties like advertisers, nor will it allow third-party developers to do so.

"We designed HealthKit with privacy in mind," said Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller.

Unlike health and medical data patients give to healthcare providers, most data consumers store in mobile health apps are not covered by privacy rules known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

An FTC study from May revealed that a good portion of mobile health app developers collect consumer health data and give them to third parties. The 12 app developers featured in the study were found to have shared user health data with 76 different entities, including advertisers.

In Apple's case, the company tightened its in August to ensure data collected through HealthKit would not be used by developers for advertising or data-mining purposes. Data logged by the Apple Watch are encrypted on the device, and users must give consent before can access their health information.

Explore further: Apple iOS 8 software bug affects health apps

Related Stories

Apple iOS 8 software bug affects health apps

September 17, 2014

A bug in Apple's new iOS 8 software for mobile devices is prompting the company to withhold apps that use a highly touted feature for keeping track of fitness and health data.

New Apple mobile software arrives Wednesday

September 17, 2014

New-generation Apple software for powering its coveted mobile devices is set for release on Wednesday, two days ahead of the arrival of its latest iPhones.

Senator calls for smartphone app privacy policies

May 25, 2011

(AP) -- A key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is challenging Apple Inc. and Google Inc. to require all developers that make apps for their mobile devices to adopt formal privacy policies.

Recommended for you

Study suggests trees are crucial to the future of our cities

March 25, 2019

The shade of a single tree can provide welcome relief from the hot summer sun. But when that single tree is part of a small forest, it creates a profound cooling effect. According to a study published today in the Proceedings ...

Matter waves and quantum splinters

March 25, 2019

Physicists in the United States, Austria and Brazil have shown that shaking ultracold Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can cause them to either divide into uniform segments or shatter into unpredictable splinters, depending ...

Apple pivot led by star-packed video service

March 25, 2019

With Hollywood stars galore, Apple unveiled its streaming video plans Monday along with news and game subscription offerings as part of an effort to shift its focus to digital content and services to break free of its reliance ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.