If You Have a Uterus, Don’t Buy an Apple Watch
New women’s health and reproductive features in the Apple Watch 8 and Ultra have the potential to cause harm following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
By Chandra Steele
With the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple has introduced features designed to help women take charge of their reproductive health. Except in the United States, women are no longer in charge of their reproductive health, and there is a risk that those who now are could get hold of the data from an Apple Watch and use it against women who use these features.
At the Apple Event earlier this month, Apple introduced a feature that it said “takes our commitment to women’s health even further.” The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra each have two temperature sensors, one on the back and one below the display. Data from these sensors is added to Apple’s existing Cycle Tracking app to indicate and track ovulation. Users can receive notification of possible cycle deviations on their Apple Watch and iPhone.
Additionally, a user can choose to log reproductive health data in the Cycle Tracking app, including sexual activity, ovulation test results, progesterone test results, pregnancy test results, and cervical mucus quality.
Even a fraction of this data could be used to prosecute and jail a woman who terminates a pregnancy in a state that legislates against abortion in the wake of Roe v. Wade being struck down with the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.
Why Apple’s Security Plan Isn’t Enough
Apple’s policy states that a user’s data is never sold to a third party and that is so. But if a person at any point gives an app access to their health data, then third parties have it and can make it available to data brokers, who can then sell it to anyone.
Lots of apps make a play at trying to access health data, particularly workout apps like Peloton and food logging and weight loss apps like Noom. Users can monitor what data newly downloaded apps track if they have App Tracking Transparency turned on. And they can see which apps on their phone have access to Health app data in their settings. But anyone who has clicked “I agree” to a wall of text knows that these permissions are still easy to consent to without even realizing it.
Should a woman be suspected of terminating a pregnancy, either by law enforcement or a civilian looking to cash in on a bounty, all the information needed to prosecute her could be obtained without a warrant by simply purchasing it.
Even if a person navigated app permissions to successfully avoid sharing their health data, just linking apps between their Watch and iPhone can jeopardize them. One of Apple’s prime selling points is its ecosystem, the way its devices work so well with each other. This is facilitated by iCloud, a repository of data shared between Apple products. It’s also something that law enforcement can gain access to with a warrant.
And if a user is savvy enough to keep their health data strictly to themselves and only on their Watch, it is still possible that law enforcement can use tactics to obtain it with or without a warrant. Health data from an Apple Watch has resulted in more than one murder conviction.
The many ways that the sensitive reproductive health data on Apple Watch Series 8 and Ultra can be accessed by any of the parties who now decide a woman’s health makes them dangerous to anyone who could potentially become pregnant. And it makes Apple’s decision to include these features at this particular moment in America a baffling one.
Dr. Desai opened her presentation with: “Women’s health impacts more than just women.” Unfortunately, it’s a statement that is true in disturbing new way.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.