Lawmakers Sweat Details Of Consumer Health Privacy

by Cheryl Miller, The Recorder (San Francisco)

Fitbits from Samsung Creative Commons feed

Creative Commons

A state Assembly committee on Tuesday gave early support to new legislation that would place privacy restrictions on health data collected by wearable devices and consumer-facing apps.

Privacy advocates and tech industry representatives responded with varying levels of wariness, however, to the Legislature’s first comprehensive attempt to limit what Fitbit Inc., Apple Inc. and the host of other companies sprouting up in the health-tracking field can do with the information they gather.

“We are in total agreement with the intent of the bill and believe that it’s very, very important that this information be given strong privacy protections,” Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California, told the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee.

But “we’ve had a lot of experience over the years with various privacy laws and how courts interpret those laws and … we want to be very precise about how a bill is written to make sure that it’s being interpreted by the industry and the courts as it was intended,” Holober said.

AB 2688 by Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, would require health-tracking app operators and device manufacturers to get customers’ permission—via an “opt-in” request—before sharing their personally identifiable information with advertisers, health plans, data resellers or any other entity who might be interested in, say, a user’s heart-rate history or fitness evaluation.

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