AG says Apple ‘must do better’ on reproductive health data

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and several of his counterparts are calling on Apple to better protect consumers’ reproductive health information on apps available through its App Store after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

In a letter sent Monday to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, Tong and other attorneys general said Apple needs to take stronger measures to protect personal reproductive health data collected from users of apps hosted on the App Store. because he said the information “could be” weaponized against consumers by law enforcement, private entities or individuals.

“From basic health and wellness apps, to period tracking, fertility and pregnancy tracking apps, we’ve enabled our phones to collect, maintain — and sometimes share — our most personal and private reproductive health information, Tong, a Democrat who was re-elected to a second term on Nov. 8, said in a statement. “Apple says it has strong privacy and security measures in place for its devices, yet those protections do not extend to the apps hosted on their store. Apple could do better to demand stronger privacy protections.” and to ensure that private reproductive health information is not used to criminalize and harass those who seek and provide abortion care.

In addition to Tong, the attorneys general of New Jersey, California, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina, Illinois, Vermont and Washington, DC also signed the letter.

In response to an inquiry from Hearst Connecticut Media, a spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment specifically on the attorney general’s letter.

However, the spokesperson did provide an overview of privacy protections for Apple’s Health app, including a link to the company’s policy on sharing Health app data with third-party apps. Users can determine what, if any, Health app data to share with third-party apps.

The policy states, “Apps must request the ability to read data from or write data from your Health app.” “All third-party apps must explain why they are requesting access to your health app data. Each app is also required to have a privacy policy that describes its use of health data, so you should review these policies before granting access to your health data.

But the attorney general is looking to Apple to implement additional safeguards. Citing what he argued is location history, search history and related health data a risk to individuals seeking or providing abortion or other reproductive health care, the attorney general wants Apple to require app developers to either need to be authenticated or “positively represented”. their privacy policies that they will take the following safeguards:

• Delete data not necessary for the use of the app – including location history, search history and any other related data of consumers that may help provide, receive or deliver reproductive health care

• provide “clear and specific notice” about the ability of App Store apps to disclose user data related to reproductive health care and require apps to do so only if there is a valid subpoena, search warrant or court order be required

• Require App Store apps that collect consumers’ reproductive health data or that sync with user health data stored on Apple devices to apply at least the same privacy and security standards that apply to that data Apple’s.

“These actions will protect reproductive health information from being misused by those who would use it to harm patients or providers,” the attorney general said in the letter. “Failure to certify compliance with these measures should constitute grounds for removal from the App Store.”

“Consumers cannot rely on Apple’s privacy promises if applications on the App Store are not required to take proactive measures to protect this sensitive health data. Provision of an app or service may result in consumers losing control over their health data,” he added. should not be at the cost of giving up. For this, Apple should adopt these measures to protect the reproductive health privacy of consumers. These steps will ensure that Apple lives up to its commitment of ‘providing a safe experience to users’.

The attorney general concluded the letter by acknowledging Apple’s “commitment to privacy and security in its products”, as evidenced by its use of encryption to protect users’ health data, as well as to respond to law-enforcement requests for user data. But it is seen in its “transparency”.

“But if third-party apps on the App Store fail to respect and adhere to Apple’s privacy ethos, that alone is insufficient,” the attorney general concluded. “Millions of consumers who use Apple’s App Store to obtain health and fertility services rely on Apple’s assurances of privacy. We urge Apple to honor its commitment to protecting consumer privacy by requiring apps hosted on its platform to do so.

Holding tech giants accountable for their data-privacy practices has been a major objective for Tong in his first term. Last week, he announced that Connecticut would receive more than $6.5 million as part of a $391.5 million multistate settlement with Google over location-tracking practices related to Google account settings.

[email protected]; Twitter: @paulschott

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