Exclusive: U.S. FTC asking Apple about health data protection

Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:04pm EST
 
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By Christina Farr and Diane Bartz

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is seeking assurances from Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) 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.

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.

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 declined to comment.

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.

Apple hopes its upcoming Apple Watch and HealthKit platform will become the lynchpins in a broad push into mobile healthcare, a potentially lucrative field that rivals Google and Samsung are also exploring.   Continued...

 
The Apple logo is lit on the first day of sale for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, in Sydney September 19, 2014.   REUTERS/David Gray