Just when you thought Apple had landed on the right side of privacy and security comes news that the company wants to track your sex life. Alright, not quite. Rather, Apple gives you tools which can track your sex life. iOS 9, due in the fall, will have an option for Sexual Activity, ostensibly so you can track dates and times and partners and protection levels and styles; kind of a scoreboard for reproductive activities.
The new section on sex is part of the Health app’s health tracking features which can collect and graph out data. As they say, ‘performance measured is performance improved.’ It’s easy to see where this is going, and where the dangers lie in the future.
First of all, and for now, the data entered is manual. Now, add Watch to the personal activities mix, to track heart rate during, uh, physical activity sessions. It’s a hop, skip, and jump to a graph which measures when activity began, various and sundry peaks and valleys, and the inevitable crescendo just prior to sleep.
Second, where’s there’s data to be collected, someone will collect it. Where there’s data collected, somewhere will hack into it. Apple says health tracking features can be shared, and that likely includes the Sexual Activity option. Sure, we’re in control of which applications can obtain the data and use the data but if it’s there, it will be misused.
As a large and prominent technology company, Apple seems to be in the midst of an evolutionary change. Few women have graced the stage of an Apple keynote presentation in the past 30 years, but two made the cut at WWDC 2015. iOS 8’s Health app seems somewhat unisex with information collected, but with iOS 9 Apple seems to be coming out of the closet, so to speak, and now recognizes that women are not men, have different needs, and different data collection requirements.
The Reproductive Health data is a step in the right direction. The first beta of iOS 9 displays options to gather data for Basal Body Temperature, Cervical Mucus Quality, Menstruation, Ovulation Test Results, Sexual Activity, and even Spotting. It’s unlikely that most women (or men) will track personal data in such detail, but future Watch sensors could make much of the collection automatic.
iOS 9’s Health app, Apple’s embrace of women executives, and a desire to be known as the privacy and security champions help set the company apart from Google, Facebook, and other entities which rely on harvesting your personal data for their own gain.
I worry about how much data an iPhone and Watch combo can obtain, and Apple needs to make sure that every step toward gathering such personal information is not only opt in, but highly secure (Touch ID accessible), and fully private.