Attorney General Jepsen Asks Apple for Meeting on Watch Privacy Questions
Apple, Inc. has billed its new Apple Watch as "the most personal device" that it has ever created, but Attorney General George Jepsen has questions about the privacy protections that the company will implement and enforce on the device. Based on published reports, Apple Watch will have the capacity to collect, store and use consumers’ health information. In a letter sent to Apple's chief executive officer, Tim Cook, the Attorney General has asked for a meeting with company representatives to address his questions about how personal consumer information collected through Apple Watch will be stored and safeguarded.
"When new technologies emerge in consumer markets they inevitably lead to new questions, including questions about privacy," Attorney General Jepsen said. "I have found that asking those questions and engaging in a proactive dialogue about privacy concerns before a product comes to market is an effective and mutually beneficial way to ensure that consumer privacy is protected. I am encouraged by Apple's representations that personal health information will be encrypted on the Apple Watch and that users will decide which applications gain access to their health data. However, as personal information will no doubt be collected and stored in some way, questions remain, and I look forward to the opportunity to have a discussion with Apple."
In his letter, the Attorney General noted several areas of concern, including:
• Whether Apple will allow consumers to store personal and health information on Apple Watch itself and/or on its servers, and if so, how information will be safeguarded;
• If and how Apple will review application privacy policies to ensure that users’ health information is safeguarded;
• If and how Apple intends to enforce policies that require the rejection of applications that provide diagnoses, treatment advice, or control hardware designed to diagnose or treat medical conditions that do not provide written regulatory approval;
• What information Apple Watch and its applications will collect from users, and how Apple and application developers will obtain consent to collect and share such information from these individuals; and
• How Apple intends to monitor and enforce applications' compliance with its guidelines concerning users' health information.
This is not the first request the Attorney General has made to a tech giant over privacy questions related to new technology. Last year, Attorney General Jepsen met with representatives from Google, Inc. following a similar request to address questions about the privacy protections of Google's wearable computing device, Glass. Through that meeting and subsequent communications, Google implemented a policy requiring review and approval of third-party applications developed for the device before they would be made available to users.
Assistant Attorney General Michele Lucan of the Attorney General’s Privacy Task Force, and Assistant Attorney General Matthew Fitzsimmons, head of the Task Force, are assisting the Attorney General with this matter.
Jaclyn M. Falkowski