Apple Restricted App Developers From Accessing HealthKit Data


Apple has reportedly updated terms of conditions related to the use of iOS 8. The new terms of use prevents developers from reselling information through the much hyped HealthKit framework. Apple announced HealthKit at the WWDC in June. The restriction however applies with the latest iOS 8 beta.


Is it an unexpected move? Not at all. We need to keep in mind HealthKit is perhaps the most sought after feature that iOS ever housed. If developer gets full-fledged access to HealthKit, they will get a way in to vital data. Since such data will come from users, a certain degree of privacy needs to be maintained.

Already similar restrictions are there for iOS Touch ID API. Developers cannot access or store fingerprint data that come from users. Normally app developers are given leverage by most OS makers. But that’s definitely not the plan of Apple, perhaps because the data are too sensitive.

However Apple does show an amicable face by giving developers some freedom. The Cupertino based tech company allows developers share health data from users third parties. There is however a condition; the third parties must be using the data for health and fitness related research. They cannot sell it to any other company for exchange of money. The developer would first have to obtain permission from the user. If a certain user doesn’t want his health and fitness data to be shared with anyone else, he choose not to opt-in to any initiative that requires data from him.

Apple’s guideline for developers instructs developers that they

must not sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit APIs to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers“. For developers, Apple unequivocally states “Your application must not access the HealthKit APIs unless it is primarily designed to provide health and/or fitness services, and this usage is clearly evident in your marketing text and user interface.”

One might wonder what purpose health data could be used if not for research. There are information resellers, advertisers and data brokers. Once they collect the data they send them to different companies. The HealthKit is a tracking system with onboard sensor suite. It’s structure is based on Apple’s own algorithm that are undisclosed. If third parties get their hands on those data, they could discover a pattern and develop their own app based on that pattern.

Information resellers could put those data for illicit usage. Advertising companies may help their clients from health and fitness industry to get clued up about the health condition of average users. Simply put, a billion dollar might grow just on the basis of data from HealthKit. That’s the reason Apple is so serious about protecting HealthKit data.

Apple’s recent emphasis on HealthKit has left a segment of analysts wondering whether Apple is up for releasing a wearable device. Apple has sent tech journos invitation for a September 9 event. We are not sure if Apple will release iPhone 6 or iWatch on that day. Whatever comes out from the event, observing Apple’s readiness we can anticipate it will have something to do with the HealthKit.