The wearable Health Tech industry is growing rapidly, but rapid growth can bring significant risks. If the products and services are not required to meet certain standards, a “Wild West” scenario can occur where consumers are exposed to potential risks with little hope of knowing the nature of that exposure.
For this reason, Apple is to be commended for issuing revised guidelines for programs to be submitted to its App Store. In particular, the company has new standards under the Privacy heading, especially in the Health and Health Research section. Some of it may seem obvious, but it’s good to have it spelled out. “Apps must not write false or inaccurate data into HealthKit or any other medical research or health management apps” is one example aimed at making sure we gather useful data. Unfortunately, there’s no definition of “inaccurate” provided; as any person trained in science can tell you, any measurement has a range of accuracy (“margin of error”). This makes this guidance slightly less useful.
The guidelines require protection against disclosing data from health, fitness, or medical research apps to third parties for advertising or data mining. The data can be used for health management or health research, but only with the user’s permission. And any health research apps must obtain consent from the participants, which means details must be provided about risks and benefits, data usage, a contact in case of questions, and a way to withdraw consent. The guidelines also prohibit the storage of “personal health information” in iCloud.
Data security and privacy pose potential weak links in the growth and adoption of wearable Health Tech devices and services. While Apple’s new guidelines aren’t perfect, they are an important step in the right direction.