The Cupertino tech is facing a new class action lawsuit over the allegations that the Apple Watch blood oxygen tech is racially biased. According to plaintiff Alex Morales’ filing at the United States District Court Southern District of New York, Apple Watch’s blood oxygen sensor is racially biased against dark skin tone users.
In Apple Watch Series 6 and later, the company introduced the Blood Oxygen app powered by a new blood oxygen sensor to measure the percentage of oxygen red blood cells carry from the lungs to the rest of users’ bodies and improve their overall health and wellness.
The company explains that users must wear their Apple Watch properly to get successful Blood Oxygen measurements. It categorically states that the Blood Oxygen app’s measures are not for medical use.
Apple Watch’s Blood Oxygen app can not accurately measure the blood oxygen levels of users with dark skin tones
Based on research that found digital products to measure oxygen levels did not record accurate readings based on skin color, the plaintiff argues that Apple misleads consumers into believing that Apple Watch can accurately measure blood oxygen levels and unjustifiably charges nearly $400 for the product.
For decades, there have been reports that such devices were significantly less accurate in measuring blood oxygen levels based on skin color.
Though one recent study concluded the Product was able to detect reduced blood oxygen saturation in comparison to medical-grade pulse oximeters this fails to recognize the failings of pulse oximetry in general with respect to persons of color.
As a result of the false and misleading representations, the Product is sold at a premium price, approximately no less than $400, excluding tax and sales.
The filing further alleges that inaccurate blood oxygen measurements lead to discrimination in receiving medical treatment for users with dark skin tones.
The “real world significance” of this bias lay unaddressed until the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, which converged with a greater awareness of structural racism which exists in many aspects of society.
The conclusion was that “reliance on pulse oximetry to triage patients and adjust supplemental oxygen levels may place Black patients at increased risk for hypoxemia.”
Since health care recommendations are based on readings of their blood oxygen levels, white patients are more able to obtain care than those with darker skin when faced with equally low blood oxygenation.
The lawsuit seeks trial by jury and the tech company to pay damages. Apple is also accused of stealing blood-oxygen technology in Apple Watch by Masimo.