Apple clamps down on apps selling health data to advertisers ahead of iPhone 6 launch

Health services are expected to be a big feature in Apple's new smartphone - but recent celebrity hacks have made customers wary about sharing data

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The Independent Tech

Apple is attempting to counter growing fears about the exploitation of personal data by placing new restrictions on how medical information collected by its forthcoming HealthKit platform will be used by advertisers.

The iPhone maker issued new guidelines to developers clarifying that marketing companies will not be able to use information about customers’ health to deliver targeted ads such as weight loss products.

The clampdown comes as Apple faces new challenges over its security measures and less than a week before the company prepares to launch a new iPhone – and possibly a wearable 'iWatch'– on September 9.

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HealthKit, which will be available in the next iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system iOS 8, will act as a central clearing house for various health and fitness metrics, compiling information as varied as heart-rate and lung capacity to daily activity and vitamin intake.

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However, developers who want to take advantage of this new platform (represented by Apple’s new Health app) will have to sign up to new rules promising not use information “for any other purpose other than providing health and/or fitness services”.

Health and fitness apps have provided the latest boom in the mobile market, with downloads increasing by 62 per cent in June this year, according mobile analytics firm Flurry.

However, many of these apps rely on advertising for revenue and a study by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy group, has previously found that 43 per cent of apps on the market shared users’ data with advertisers – with many customers unaware of this transaction.

Health data is expected to be one of the key features in Apple’s announcements next week, with the tech company also expected to unveil two new iPhones with a contactless payment system built in