U.S. FTC in talking terms with Apple over health data protection

U.S. FTC in talking terms with Apple over health data protection

Apple’s new Health app – and the HealthKit platform that lets other companies’ health and activity-tracking apps bond into it – was one of the big new features in its iOS 8 software, which was launched recently.

Health is talented of collecting, storing and analyzing a range of personal data, but there are clear privacy implications here – for Apple and any company involved in this space, from Google and Microsoft to the growing number of smaller fitness-focused app and device makers.

According to Reuters, the US Federal Trade Commission is alive to the issues. It reports that the FTC is “seeking assurances from Apple that it will prevent sensitive health data collected by its upcoming smartwatch and other mobile devices from being used without owners’ consent”.

The report also claims that Apple is stressing during the conversations that it will not be selling health data to third parties like advertisers, with spokesperson Trudy Muller telling Reuters that “we designed HealthKit with privacy in mind”.

This is less an Apple issue than it is a wider regulatory challenge, when health data is heavily protected if it’s gathered in a medical context, but much more of a grey area when it’s gathered by an app and/or device.
So, questions: if you’re using health-tracking apps and gadgets, are you thinking about the privacy of your data? Have you dug into the providers’ privacy policies and found anything reassuring or worrying?

And if you don’t use these apps and devices, is privacy one of the reasons? What are your concerns, and how would you like to see technology firms and regulators alike approaching the issue? The comments section is open for your thoughts.

Some more stories ripe for discussion today:

  • Hachette and Amazon have settled their long-running dispute, agreeing that the book publisher will have “full responsibility” for setting its ebook prices on Amazon’s Kindle Store. Watch now for the ripples as other publishers react.
  • Samsung is apparently spending “tens of millions” developing a new shortform video service codenamed Volt, which would try to take on YouTube with exclusive content and, possibly, music. Although YouTube has plenty of both, so it would be a tough challenge.
  • This is a really interesting use of Oculus Rift and virtual reality: Canadian environmental group Dogwood Initiative is using the technology to show what an oil tanker spill near Vancouver might look like, and how it would affect the city.
  • “The men are coming to Pinterest” reports TechCrunch. Apparently men now account for a third of all new signups to the site, whose gender split has traditionally been 70-30 or 80-20 in favour of women. And in countries like India, Japan and South Korea, the split is now 50-50.
  • Finally, Tubefilter and OpenSlate have published their latest chart of the top 100 games channels on YouTube. It’s another reminder of just how popular games are on the service, with 4.6bn views for the top 100 alone. No surprises for guessing who’s top: PewDiePie.

What else? The comments section is open for your thoughts on the stories above, and your suggestions of other links worth reading.

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