Apple teamed up with the University of Michigan last year to launch the Apple Hearing Study. The study was focused on analyzing factors that impact hearing ability. People who enrolled in the study consented to allow Apple and researchers to collect data on headphone sound levels, heart rate, environmental sound levels, and workout data types.
The data is used to help researchers understand the link between the impact of hearing health and long-term sound exposure. However, there was a bug in the app that collected historical data from users without their consent.
Apple Hearing Study collected historical data from users without their consent
According to an email that various participants are receiving, a bug in the study app generated up to 30 days worth of historical data which had been shared with Apple by mistake. More importantly, the consent form did not state that historical data would be collected without knowledge.
Here’s the email sent by Apple:
Thank you for your participation in the Apple Hearing Study. When you enrolled in the study, you provided consent to collect certain headphone sound level, environmental sound level, heart rate, and workout data types during the enrollment process. This data is collected to help researchers, listed in the consent form, understand the link between long-term sound exposure and its impact on hearing health. We recently learned that due to a bug, after study enrollment, the Apple Hearing Study unintentionally collected up to 30 days of historical data for these authorized data types. The study only collected data after your consent was obtained. However, the study consent form does not state that historical data will be collected.
The bug has now been fixed with a study app update and historical data received to date have been deleted. We remain committed to your privacy and will continue to monitor for and delete any additional historical data if received until you update your Apple Research app. Please update your Apple Research app to the latest version here, to receive the fix.
At no time did Apple have access to information collected from the Apple Research app that could directly identify you. Please refer to the study informed consent form for additional details on the data that is being collected, how your data is stored, and who your data might be shared with for the purposes of the study.
The Cupertino tech giant did not have access to information collected from the Apple Research app that could potentially be used for identification purposes, says Richard Neitzel the principal investigator in the study.
The bug has been taken care of with an update to the Apple Hearing Study and historical data that was received mistakenly has been deleted. Users can download the updated version of their Apple Research apps here.