Apple tightens privacy rules for health apps

Data protection

Apple tightens privacy rules for health apps

Warwick Ashford

Apple has tightened its privacy rules relating to health apps in an attempt to quell privacy concerns over its HealthKit platform.

At its Worldwide Developer Conference in June, Apple said the new HealthKit API will enable apps to provide health and fitness services to access shared health-related information in one place.

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The idea is to store a user’s health information in a centralised and secure location that can be shared with a variety of health-related apps.

Apple also announced a standard health app that will collect data on blood pressure, heart rate, diet and exercise.

According to the revised privacy rules, developers using the new HealthKit API are not allowed to sell to advertisers, data brokers or information resellers any personal data collected by apps.

However, apps are allowed to share data with third parties for medical research purposes, but only with the consent of those whose data is being shared.

The rules require apps using the HealthKit API to provide health and/or fitness services and for developers to make the purpose of an app clear in marketing text and the user interface.

Apple came under fire in February 2012 for distributing several social media apps through its iTunes store that harvested iPhone contact information without users’ permission.

Apple responded by blocking apps from accessing contact lists without explicit consent from users.

The latest privacy rules update comes in the run-up to the expected launch of the latest iPhone and new wearable technology in September.

This week, Apple sent out invitations for an event on 9 September that is believed to be the launch of the latest iPhone and a range of wearable technology, according to The Guardian.

Apple is expected to unveil an iPhone with a larger screen and revamped operating system, iOS8, in an attempt to remain competitive with rivals such as Samsung and Google.

In iOS8, Apple has also paid particular attention to privacy concerns by introducing several privacy enhancements that will make it more difficult for advertisers and others to spy on users.

Unlike its predecessors, iOS8 will keep private the device's location, past Wi-Fi connections and Media Access Control (MAC) address.

There are rumours that at the September product launch, Apple will unveil a smartwatch to compete with similar products from Google, LG and Samsung.


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