Apple asks permission in Health app to anonymously collect workout data for improvements

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By Mike Wuerthele

Tuesday, December 20, 2016, 06:18 am PT (09:18 am ET)

As part of an initiative to improve the data collection process, and gauge future needs, Apple is asking users to opt into anonymous data collection about workouts and activity information.


A new dialog box implemented in the Health app is asking users if they wish to share this data, which includes activity data such as stand hours and exercise minutes, if other fitness apps are installed, a user’s approximate location, and how long the Apple Watch has been used.

Apple notes that the data will not be used for any other reason than to assist Apple to “improve and understand the effectiveness of health and fitness features on Apple devices.” No personally identifiable information will be sent.

The notification is similar to one users can get in conjunction with a ResearchKit study —but that one also notes that data will be shared with research partners, and may or may not include personally identifiable data, in accordance with the research agreements.

“This isn’t any different than what we do with crash reports on macOS, really, and not at all sinister,” we were told by a source within Apple. “If we find that a high percentage of users are, say, playing ultimate frisbee at 2 a.m., we’ll do some focused work on that, like we did for wheelchair users.”

The Health application was launched in iOS 8, and aims to become a centralized repository for all of a user’s health information, whether input manually or automatically collected through third-party iPhone accessories and the Apple Watch.

With Apple’s Health app, and HealthKit, Users can configure emergency contact information, register to become an organ donor, track reproductive health conditions, log UV exposure, and much more.

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