Feds want Apple's word it won't share, sell HealthKit user data

Apple and Federal Trade Commission officials are discussing data sharing and user privacy as it relates to Apple's HealthKit and its impending watch, with the agency seeking assurance Apple will not sell data to third-party vendors, according to a Reuters report.

The FTC and Apple have met several times regarding data use and user consent when it comes to selling data, the report said, citing unnamed sources.

"We've been very encouraged by their support," Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller told Reuters.

The discussion is part of a continuing dialogue between federal agencies and Apple that began late in 2013 when Apple met with U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials regarding the agency's mobile medical application guidance.

The news comes just months after lawmakers and privacy advocates have called for greater regulatory oversight regarding mHealth data use and sharing.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has asked the FTC to put a new policy in place regarding data sharing among device and app makers and third parties. While the agency has gone on record stating more regulations are needed, it has also made it clear it is not interested in creating new rules. That's despite a FTC study that revealed at least one app vendor is already sharing personal health data and information with a third-party ad company without users' knowledge.

Concerns about data and privacy had long been a concern before Apple debuted its HealthKit, a virtual service framework that fosters data sharing between providers, patients and third-party devices, this past September. 

And privacy advocates increasingly believe users must be given control over mHealth data and want Congress to enact regulations to ensure it happens, FierceMobileHealthcare previously reported.

"There is no longer a question the public wants to control their personal information," Deborah Peel, a privacy advocate and founder and chair of Patient Privacy Rights, told HealthcareInfoSecurity.com.

For its part, Apple said it developed HealthKit while well aware of the concerns, according to Reuters. Reuters also said the tech giant is mulling the appointment of an in-house health privacy czar.

For more information:
- read the Reuters article

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