Apple may have only unveiled their long-awaited Watch a few weeks ago, but they're already pushing the government to make sure it isn't subjected to health privacy regulations. According to Politico, companies including Intel, Apple, and Fitbit are pouring millions into lobbying campaigns against regulating wearables like medical devices.
Legislators and regulators alike have called into question the security of data stored in Apple's HealthKit and other competing cloud-based health apps—and have suggested that health data be covered under the strict Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) legislation. However, Apple's lobbyists have repeatedly attempted to assure critics that the data is safe and won't be sold to third parties.
Others argue that FTC and FDA should keep their hands off wearable data because it doesn't require the same level of protection as traditional medical records, which are protected by HIPAA.
"You can't treat FitBit health data the same way you treat your BlueCross BlueShield data," said Carl M. Szabo of Netchoice, an e-commerce trade association that represents leading tech companies. "Health apps are not a one-size-fits-all category."
Many of these promises to keep your personal information safe have come after legislators pointed out the privacy risks associated with these health data services.
Fitbit this summer hired Heather Podesta + Partners to lobby lawmakers regarding health and fitness devices, according to a disclosure filed with the U.S. Senate.
The hire—coincidentally, the company says—came just after Sen. Chuck Schumer called wearable fitness devices a "privacy nightmare."
Of course, these devices could very well prove to be a privacy nightmare. One lobbyist punts the issue of privacy down to the user, telling Politico "It all goes back to education—explaining what we do, and the user controls we make available." But as Apple's iCloud hacking scandal proved, even the best user controls won't make people's data safe.
Silicon Valley tech powerhouses are lobbying in case of emergency. As one expert told Politico, the firms are readying to "fight the potential regulatory backlash that might occur if there is a Target/Home Depot-style hack of consumer-generated health data."