Apple Tightens Consumer Privacy Regulations

11 Sep


Much has been made in the media of consumer data gathered by search engines, and the potential breaches of privacy such activity entails. Less frequently discussed is the issue of what app developers should and shouldn’t do with users personal information, but Apple has preempted concerns by tightening its privacy rules regarding health apps. 

The new rules were announced ahead of the iOS 6 launch this month. Apple has told app developers using their new HealthKit software that they must not sell any personal data to advertisers. Apple hopes the move will keep concerns surrounding privacy at bay, as the tech giant moves into the health data industry.

Health data is not fully regulated by the law, which makes Apple’s unilateral decision to crack down on privacy breaches all the more interesting. Their revised iOS developer license agreement tells developers using the HealthKit interface that they “must not sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit APIs to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers”.

In addition, the agreement states:

“Your application must not access the HealthKit APIs unless it is primarily designed to provide health and/or fitness services, and this usage is clearly evident in your marketing text and user interface.”

The launch of HealthKit was announced in June. The software, which gathers data on health metrics such as blood pressure and heart rate, reflects a growing market for health tech tools like wearables. Consumers can choose from a plethora of apps to track their vital signs, calorie intake and burn, diet and exercise, but despite the large amounts of biological and personal data collected by such tools, many users aren’t cognizant of how much information they are giving up.

Apple’s tightened regulations go as far as barring developers who violate the terms by selling health related consumer information to advertisers. The rules state that developers using HealthKit can collect data, but can’t sell it to “advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers.’ If user consent is obtained, developers are allowed to share data with third parties for medical research purposes only. 

The health industry has been trying all manner of ways to use mobile technology to the benefit of patients. In Scotland,SMS messaging is being used to help smokers quit and drinkers cut down, and app developers have flooded the market with variations of fitness trackers and calorie counters.

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