Apple Watch & ResearchKit Raise Privacy Concerns

This week Apple announced something everyone saw coming: the Apple Watch.

That announcement also brought the potential for a healthier future with apps and technology used for health and fitness and an even more innovative technology that’s guaranteed to take the world by storm for its practicality and it’s privacy risks.

What Is ResearchKit?

Apple’s ResearchKit is an open source software framework the company designed for health and medical research, and it’s the company’s latest foray into world-changing technology.

The point of the software is to help doctors and scientists gather research data for medical research should an Apple user decide to enroll.

In other words, Apple Watch users can easily volunteer to be a participant for research studies, by using apps recently developed for studies of asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

All Apple Watch users would have to do is agree to the monitoring and submitting of their health information. Users would also complete tasks, fill out surveys and submit consent forms via the ResearchKit system.

The idea is revolutionary.

By transforming and enlarging the research recruitment process from the scope of just a few hundred in a local setting, Apple has now made it possible for thousands to be recruited for research that could save millions of lives.

Privacy Concerns

But much of this could come with a price as privacy remains a key topic for the tech giant.

Laws and rules governing the medical community’s privacy policies do not apply to data shared in an app or device. Instead, this information is available to be sold, shared and/or stored in any way Apple’s privacy policy sees fit.

While contributing to the greater good, the Apple Watch could also be an easy target for hackers; something not unheard of with last year’s iCloud celebrity photo leaks.

In recent history, health information has also been shown to be far more valuable to hackers, garnering up to 10 times the dollar amount of financial data. It’s an unsettling fact that could signal troubling waters for Apple to wade through.

There is no 100 percent guarantee that this won’t happen, but Apple has met with the Federal Trade Commission to discuss its commitment to protecting the information and identities of its customers, namely by prohibiting the sharing of collected data with third parties. The company has also made ResearchKit an open source system, meaning the code used to develop the software is pubic information and that any bugs can be easily identified and reported immediately.

The invention of the Apple Watch and all of its respective software have opened the door for true change and practicality to begin in the health field, but until the risk of leaks, security breaches and hacks ceases to exist, consumers may never be put at ease with where their information is really going.

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