Most people trust Apple with their health data

11 August 2017
Of 1,000 people participating in the Twitter poll, 37 percent responded that they would not share their data. Apple scores a whopping 41 percent. Google, with AI / machine learning  daughter DeepMind and life sciences venture Verily active in healthcare, is trusted by 14 percent. Perhaps the problems DeepMind had regarding patient data received in a deal with British national healthcare organisation NHS has contributed to privacy concerns. Amazon scores even lower, with only 8 percent of respondents saying they would share health data with the internet company.

Consumer trust in tech companies changing

CNBC sees a big change in overall consumer trust. It has been two years since the research firm Rock Health surveyed the American public and found that most people would not trust a tech company with their data. Only some 8 percent said they would share their health information. Though this poll and CNBC’s arent’compatible, privacy experts say there is something revealing in the results. They believe sentiment is changing around the major tech companies, particularly Apple.

"Apple has done a big push around health and privacy to breed familiarity and comfort," said Andrew Boyd, a professor of biomedical and health information sciences at the University of Illinois. He points out, Apple has shared plans to aggregate health information on the phone so users can share it -- with consent. CNBC earlier reported the company plans to followup by integrating other types of medical data, like clinical labs, which have historically been scattered across hospitals and clinics.

Repeated assurances by Apple

Apple has made repeated assurances to users that it will not sell health data to advertisers. That policy extends to third-party developers. Also, the company also went up against the FBI last year in refusing to help the agency unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter, which some interpreted as a move to protect privacy and security.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said NPR: "Some of our most personal data is on the phone - our financial data, our health information, our conversations with our friends and family and coworkers. And so instead of us taking that data into Apple, we've kept data on the phone, and it's encrypted by you. You control it."

Lucia Savage, chief privacy and regulatory officer at a start-up called Omada Health and the former chief privacy officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, stresses that all health data collection companies, including tech giants, should adopt minimum protections: To provide a summary of the data collected about their users, and to agree not to sell it.

Not all health-related data protected

Other privacy experts note that these companies collect a lot of health-related data that is not protected by rules that govern how companies can share and store medical information, like HIPAA.

"If you buy condoms from Amazon, your purchase history is not protected health information under HIPAA; your Dr. Google search history is not, nor is Strava location data," said Chas Ballew, a regulatory lawyer and the co-founder of a start-up called Aptible.