U.S. FTC Seeks Health Data Protection Assurance from Apple

According to an exclusive report by Reuters, anonymous sources have indicated that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has asked Apple to provide assurance that it will prevent sensitive health data collected by its upcoming Apple Watch and its other portable devices, from being used without user’s consent. The report also claims that Apple executives have met with the FTC officials on multiple occasions over the matter in recent months.

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Apple execs have reportedly stressed in their meetings with the agency 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 has also said that it works closely with regulators like FTC around the globe “to describe built-in data protections” for its services. “We’ve been very encouraged by their support,” said Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller. “We designed HealthKit with privacy in mind,” she added.

“There are no indications that the FTC intends to launch a formal investigation or inquiry into the matter, but the dialogue underscores the agency’s interest in how the increasing wealth of consumer-generated health and fitness data will be safeguarded.

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. FTC Commissioner Julie Brill in May said the agency is concerned about the risks of health data that flows outside of a medical context, such as information collected via wearables and mobile health apps.”

The source has also noted that Apple is turning to “a team of outside experts”, including health data protection lawyer Marcy Wilder, to respond on health issues, in addition to considering appointing an in-house health privacy expert.

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