U.S. FTC seeks assurances from Apple about health data protection

“The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is seeking assurances from Apple Inc. that it will prevent sensitive health data collected by its upcoming smartwatch and other mobile devices from being used without owners’ consent, two sources told Reuters,” Christina Farr and Diane Bartz report for Reuters. “The two people, both familiar with the FTC’s thinking, said Apple representatives have met on multiple occasions with agency officials in recent months, to stress that it will not sell its users’ health data to third-party entities such as marketers or allow third-party developers to do so. Apple said it works closely with regulators around the world, including the FTC, to describe built-in data protections for its services. ‘We’ve been very encouraged by their support,’ Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller told Reuters. Apple developed its new HealthKit platform, which manages data from mobile health apps, to give consumers control over how their information is used and shared. ‘We designed HealthKit with privacy in mind,’ said Muller.”

“The FTC is paying particularly close attention to Apple’s upcoming smartwatch, which can track a user’s pulse and potentially store health-related information, the two sources said,” Farr and Bartz report. “Apple is turning to a team of outside experts, including health data protection lawyer Marcy Wilder, to respond on health issues, said one of the sources and another person familiar with the matter.”

“Some experts say Apple is setting a strong precedent for health data privacy. Apple requires that users must give consent before app developers are granted access to their health information, and that data logged by its smartwatch is encrypted on the device,” Farr and Bartz report. “In late August, Apple tightened its privacy rules to ensure that personal data collected through HealthKit would not be used by developers for the purposes of advertising or other data-mining purposes. It also said apps that access HealthKit are required to have a privacy policy, although it remains to be seen how Apple will enforce this rule. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez praised Apple for taking a step critical to maintain consumers’ trust.”

Read more in the full article here.

8 Comments

  1. Wow talk about barking up the wrong tree here: “The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is seeking assurances from Apple Inc (AAPL.O) that it will prevent sensitive health data collected by its upcoming smartwatch and other mobile devices from being used without owners’ consent”

    There are a lot of organizations that will go to great lengths to get such private data but I’m sure Apple is up to the task of making history.

    Once they used to say: “God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal,”

    Hopefully one day they will say: “Apple ensures digital privacy.”

    Actually that’s a good slogan for today.

      1. I’d say probably no to your first question, and probably no to the second question cause the NSA is a real data sieve these days.

        I don’t think it matters though, Apple has the technology to build secure privacy measures in the devices and service they create. It’s probably why (as NCG598 pointed out) they are taking such flak for it. Not too long ago the FBI director was taking pot shots at Apple “for developing forms of smartphone encryption so secure that law enforcement officials cannot easily gain access to information stored on the devices”.

  2. They go running to Apple for anything privacy related and in dead sleep whenever Google or Samsung push any limits. Must be nice having the NSA covering your arse.

  3. What drives me crazy about the media is that articles like this infer that Apple is or may be planning something sinister, and hint that the government is pondering punitive actions against the company.

    The problem is that Apple has not sold a single watch yet. But the article acts as if sins were already committed.

    This of course flies in the face of a number of reports showing that Apple has taken many steps to comply not just with HIPAA, but to proactively assure the privacy of individual customers’ health data captured by Apple devices, applications and third-party apps.

    I just have to keep telling myself to ignore this BS. Either it’s total ignorance on the part of the media or the subtle selling of outright lies to discredit companies like Apple. It’s up to us to see past the BS, do our own research and not let the media (regardless of their point of view) spoon feed us either poorly researched garbage or lies meant to mold our opinions and beliefs.

    Always be cynical. Think for yourself. Never trust the media completely, even when you may agree with what they tell us. Don’t be the product. Be yourself.

  4. I love the quote by the Apple rep “We’ve been very encouraged by their support”

    The subtext is pretty obvious, “leave us the feck alone! We’ve assured everyone multiple times.”

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