Experts Question Security Standards of Apple Watch App Developers

April 28, 2015 in News

Mobile application developers are developing new health-related apps for Apple’s recently launched smartwatch, but some observers are concerned that such apps might not properly protect individuals’ private health information, KQED/NPR’s “All Tech Considered” reports (Farr, ” All Tech Considered,” KQED/NPR, 4/25).

Apple Watch Details

Last month, Apple officially launched its smartwatch, which it intends to serve as a “comprehensive health and fitness companion.”

Apple Watch, which requires users to have an iPhone as its wireless foundation, tracks and monitors users’ physical activity using:

  • An accelerometer;
  • A built-in heart rate sensor;
  • GPS; and
  • Wi-Fi from iPhone.

The smartwatch also can send users reminders to be more active and display a report of individuals’ weekly activity.

Apple Watch will be available in nine countries, including the U.S. The smartwatch is available in two different sizes, 38 mm and 42 mm, and in three versions:

  • Apple Watch Sport, which costs $349 and $399;
  • Apple Watch, which costs $549 and $1,099; and
  • Apple Watch Edition, which is crafted from rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys and priced starting at $10,000 (iHealthBeat, 3/10).

According to MobiHealthNews, the Apple Watch began shipping on April 24.  

Developers Work To Create Apps

Mobile application developers anticipate the smartwatch will be popular among consumers and have created health-related apps to use on the devices.

According to MobiHealthNews, the Apple AppStore contains 264 health and fitness-related Apple Watch apps, including:

  • 13 related to medication adherence;
  • 13 related to tracking fertility or pregnancy; and
  • 12 related to tracking hydration (Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 4/27).

In addition, some apps will be geared toward health care providers, such as Drchrono’s smartwatch app that aims to help doctors manage patient care by sending alerts, such as when a patient arrives for an appointment.

Privacy Concerns

Apple has taken some measures to address concerns regarding patients’ health information, such as:

  • Allowing consumers to choose whether to share health data with third-party apps;
  • Barring developers from selling patient data collected through Apple devices to advertisers; and
  • Preventing developers from storing sensitive health data on Apple’s iCloud.

However, some observers say it is not clear if developers will follow Apple’s privacy standards.

Ben Bajarin, a consumer technology specialist at Creative Strategies, said, “We haven’t had a developer ecosystem for a product like a smartwatch,” adding, “This is unchartered territory.”

Morgan Reed — executive director of The App Association, a not-for-profit that works with app developers and patient advocates — said, “Apple has clear privacy rules, but consumers should still be on guard. Be prepared to take charge of your health information, and feel free to say no to sharing data with apps” (“All Tech Considered,” KQED/NPR, 4/25).

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