FTC Talks to Apple about HealthKit, Seems Serious about Privacy


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been in talks with Apple about privacy when it comes to HealthKit, the company's system level health data platform in iOS. According to Reuters, the FTC was seeking assurances that Apple would not sell that data to third parties or allow developers to do so.

There are little or no regulations on how health data in apps can be used. Doctors must be very careful about your health information because of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—developers don't have the same restrictions, which is wicked awesome. The FTC appears to be concerned about the topic, which is why the agency has been in discussions with Apple.

To that point, twelve mobile heath app developers are selling your information to third parties, including marketers. Apple "designed HealthKit with privacy in mind," according to an Apple spokesperson—the company has not only assured the FTC it will protect that data, it is requiring developers to have a privacy agreement that also protects that data.

This puts HealthKit at the nexus of the simmering battle over user privacy. Many developers—or whole companies in the case of Google, Facebook, and a host of others—have found it easier to sell our personal information than to get consumers to pay for their services. Apple, on the other hand, has been making a longterm play on the idea that some people don't want to be the product. Apple CEO Tim Cook directly made that point in recent interviews covering the launch of HealthKit.

Frankly, the vast majority of people don't care as long as they get stuff for "free," but the FTC seems to want health data privacy to become the law of the land. Reuters noted that the FTC has asked Congress to pass laws that would make brokering such more data transparent.

Citing an unnamed source, Reuters reported that, "The [FTC] has made it a priority to examine whether mobile health developers marketing apps on Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms are taking precautions to safeguard user privacy."