Many companies are not always transparent about the privacy of their users
The Apple Watch, Apple’s popular wearable device, now tracks calories burned during sexual activity, including masturbation . Many are wondering what this means in terms of data protection.
It is no secret that the Apple smartwatch is very sensitive to the physical activity of users. The Apple Watch Activity app uses an accelerometer in conjunction with arm movement to track users’ movements. As long as the active energy is above the resting energy , the movements will be recorded.
This also includes sexual activity. And it is taking many users by surprise.
The calories burned during standard sex are generally less intense than scheduled physical activity, but even if they aren’t, not everyone seems to like how much they exercise is recorded in areas like bed.
And it is not only that, but it can cause embarrassing or violent situations. Last year, an Apple Watch user on Reddit claimed that he accidentally disclosed his masturbation schedule to his entire family, after comparing and contrasting heart rate patterns.
That same year, another Watch owner said that he regularly forgets to remove his Apple Watch while masturbating, which can alert his wife when he completes his activity goals for the day. Due to the always-on design of the Apple Watch, human error can cause sexual information to be unintentionally disclosed.
“[My wife and I are sharing information about the activity between us, so she gets alerts when I meet a goal or whatever and vice versa,” the user wrote. “There have been numerous times when she is at work and I decide to masturbate to the watch by accident and she [sends] me a text message asking me what exercise I just did,” the comment read.
The Apple Watch does not classify the activity if it is masturbation or sex, it only records the biometric data obtained during it . The Apple Watch also does not record sex life in its Health application. However, the Apple Watch does collect enough information about physical movements during sex to warrant concern from a data privacy perspective.
A cybersecurity operations manager told the Daily Dot that they typically avoid using smartwatches “in principle” due to their biometric data tracking features. Regardless, they believe that Apple owes its customers much more transparency about how user data is recorded and used.
“Companies need to be as explicit as possible when telling users what data they collect, especially health and biometric data. For example, this is not a medical device company where you know what kind of device you are using, this is a watch. If the clock is going to know when you are having sex, you must take that into account, “he explained.
Apple has proudly touted its strong data privacy record compared to its competitors like Facebook and Google. But Apple’s relationship with user data remains complicated. Ian Bogost of The Atlantic criticized Apple last year for simultaneously supporting data privacy regulations while refusing to “keep privacy violators off its platforms and away from its customers.” The iOS App Store, for example, hosts Facebook and Messenger for download despite the notorious user data collection history of both apps.
Of course, Apple allows users to manually turn fitness tracking on and off in the iPhone’s Watch app, and when in doubt, users can always leave their watch on the nightstand during sexual activity. But Apple Watch activity data can be collected and stored without the user being fully aware of what is being tracked and when. This is doubly true for less tech-savvy users, who may unknowingly submit their sexual activity to third-party apps without knowing how and where that information will be used.
Whatever the reason, it’s always better to get more information about data tracking than less. Many experts emphasize that Apple “absolutely, without question” owes customers more direct controls over data tracking.
“Any mobile device that tracks data and shares it with other applications must have a way to shut it down and isolate it. More importantly, Apple has an obligation to its customers to better document the data it tracks and how much health data can actually be provided to other applications.