Will the Apple Watch Protect Users’ Most Sensitive Health Information?

FTC is looking into privacy before 2015 launch

When Apple releases its watch early next year, will users' sensitive health information such as pulse and movement be safe? The Federal Trade Commission has been meeting privately with Apple to ensure exactly that, according to Reuters.

The FTC wants assurances that the company will keep health data private and will not sell it to third-party marketers, unnamed sources told the the news outlet. Discussions have centered on the Apple Watch in particular.

Apple has reportedly hired data protection attorney Marcy Wilder for advice on health privacy matters. The company requires users to give consent before any app can access their health information. And it has developed a custom platform, HealthKit, to manage health apps with privacy in mind.

It's in Apple's interest to satisfy the U.S. consumer watchdog since the company hopes to cash in on the growing trends of health apps and wearable technology. Last month, Google debuted Google Fit, its free Android app that counts calories and steps and sends the data to smartwatches. Samsung offers S Health, which monitors food intake, heart rate and exercise.

But most health data gathered by wearable devices is not covered by U.S. health insurance privacy rules that were enacted during the Clinton administration, according to Reuters. App developers are apparently taking advantage of the legal loophole. The FTC found that developers of 12 mobile health and fitness apps shared user data with 76 third parties, including advertisers.

Last year, The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse published an article that warned "consumers should not assume any of their data is private in the mobile app environment," based on the group's study of 43 health and fitness apps.

At this point, the FTC has not launched any formal investigations of Apple or other health and fitness app developers.