On Tuesday, computing company Apple announced several new products and services, including a smart watch (dubbed Apple Watch) and an electronic payment system (called Apple Pay). Because of the sensitive data involved (there’s financial data with Apple Pay and the smart watch has much of the personal data that a cellphone would have, and it can also use Apple’s HealthKit to gather medical information while a person exercises, such as heart rate), there are privacy questions to consider. The New York Times reports:
For years, Apple has offered Internet services like email and online calendars. But Tuesday, with the introduction of health-monitoring technology and a new service that will allow people to buy things wirelessly with some Apple devices, the Cupertino, Calif., company positioned itself as a caretaker of valuable personal information, like credit card numbers and heart rates.
Talk about unfortunate timing. Just last week, a number of celebrities, including the Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, discovered that hackers broke into their Apple accounts, stole nude or provocative photos, and posted those photos on the Internet. […]
Against that background, Apple faces two threats to its new services: one from hackers always looking for clever ways to steal financial information, and another from regulators increasingly interested in ensuring that information gleaned from health monitoring devices stays private.
So Apple executives, in a two-hour presentation and in media interviews Tuesday, were careful to explain what the company planned to do with the information users were sharing through the health-monitoring capabilities of a smartwatch called the Apple Watch, which will be available next year, and its new payment service, Apple Pay. […]
Jeff Williams, Apple’s head of operations, noted that for the Apple Watch, Apple is forbidding app developers from storing any health information on cloud computing servers. He added that all health information logged by the watch would be encrypted on the device and users would decide which apps had access to the data. […]
The key, privacy advocates say, is the practices that govern how personal data is handled and analyzed by the device makers and software developers. “The Achilles’ heel for privacy and consumer protection are apps connected to marketing, where the information can be gathered and used,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “I do not believe safeguards are in place to protect consumer health information that will be gathered for profiling and targeting.”