Apple Hearing Study Bug Results in Accidental Historical Data Collection From Participants

Apple device owners who participated in the Apple Hearing Study that Apple is conducting with the University of Michigan School of Public Health are today receiving emails letting them know about a bug that resulted in excess data collection.

apple hearing study bug
Those who enrolled in the study consented to allow Apple and researchers to collect headphone sound level, environmental sound level, heart rate, and workout data types. The data is used to help researchers better understand the link between long-term sound exposure and the impact on hearing health.

According to the email participants are receiving, a bug in the study caused up to 30 days worth of historical data to be collected. Data collection did not fall outside of what was consented to when participants signed up, but the sign up form did not mention the collection of historical data.

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.

Richard Neitzel, the principal investigator in the study, says that Apple did not have access to information collected from the Apple Research app that could be used for identification purposes.

The bug has been addressed with an update to the Apple Research app and historical data received to data has been deleted. To ensure no further historical data collection, participants are being asked to update their Apple Research apps.

Top Rated Comments

mannyvel Avatar
10 months ago
All that stuff is in the health app/healthkit, and is saved forever. You turned that on when you turned on ambient noise and sound level monitoring, and you can turn it off if you want.

Come on people. If you pretend that you care you should at least pretend to understand the basics of what you consented to.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mansu944 Avatar
10 months ago
Well, doesn't seem to serious, but I am glad they told us.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Realityck Avatar
10 months ago
Yes very forthcoming with reporting bug and its remediation.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bobmans Avatar
10 months ago

Why does it even log all this data by default? If it can upload historical data from before you did participate, it must also be logging a lot of other stuff forehanded.
Uhm, did you know there's a health app on your phone? What is a health app without data about your health?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Analog Kid Avatar
10 months ago
I agree it's refreshing for a company to be upfront and quickly resolve an issue, but Apple needs to be better than this. Bugs like this shouldn't happen, certainly not on anything that resembles a medical study.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
azmscle Avatar
10 months ago

This sounds fine and dandy. Good response. EXCEPT the part about historical data... Now I'd like to know if they accidentally had access to historical data about headphone volume, etc... what other historical data do they collect on my device? If something as seemingly frivolous as headphone volume is kept, that means lots of other "historical data" may be collected. And if that's the case, other breaches in security (thinking Cambridge Analytica type issues here) may be harvesting that said data. Things like historical data of keystrokes would be a nightmare.
It specifically states that the historical data was only collected on the authorized data types. But go on and keep fear mongering.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

applewatchseroundup

Biogen Launches Study to Find Out if Apple Watch and iPhone Can Detect Declining Cognitive Health

Monday January 11, 2021 9:25 am PST by
Biotechnology company Biogen today announced the launch of a new Apple Watch study in partnership with Apple that is aimed at investigating the role the iPhone and Apple Watch might play in monitoring cognitive performance and screening for decline in cognitive health. The multi-year study will launch later this year and will enroll both young and aging adults with a range of cognitive...
China iCloud Feature 2

Apple's Security Compromises in China Outlined in New Report

Monday May 17, 2021 1:46 pm PDT by
Apple has been making concessions on privacy and security in order to continue building and selling its devices in China, according to an in-depth report from The New York Times. The focal point of the report is Apple's decision to comply with a 2016 law that requires all personal information and data collected in China to be kept in China, which has led Apple to build a China data center...
apple watch ecg

Apple Watch Can Accurately Assess Frailty, Finds Stanford Study

Saturday March 27, 2021 9:16 am PDT by
The Apple Watch can accurately determine a user's "frailty," according to the findings of a recently-published study from Stanford University (via MyHealthyApple). Frailty can be determined using a six-minute walking test (6MWT), and the metric is a general standard used to evaluate the functional mobility and exercise capacity of a patient. Higher scores indicate "healthier cardiac,...
watchos7sleepmode

Apple and UCLA Launch Depression and Anxiety Study

Tuesday August 4, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
Apple is teaming up with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to launch a three-year study to understand how sleep, physical activity, heart rate, and daily routine can impact anxiety and depression (via CNBC). Kicking off this week, the study was co-designed by researchers at UCLA and Apple, and it will utilize the iPhone, Apple Watch, and Beddit sleep tracker that Apple owns...
iPhone 12 v Android 2020

Research Claiming Android Collects 20x More User Data Than iOS 'Off By An Order of Magnitude,' Says Google

Wednesday March 31, 2021 1:08 am PDT by
Google and Apple both collect data from their users on their respective mobile operating systems, even when users are simply browsing the settings page or inserting a SIM card. Android, however, collects 20x more data from users compared to iOS, according to newly published research. A study from Douglas Leith at Trinity College, reported by Ars Technica, says that while both OSes collect data ...
generic tracking prompt blue

Apps Continuing to Track Users Despite Apple's Privacy Prompt

Monday June 7, 2021 8:04 am PDT by
Apple is facing increasing pressure to tighten its App Tracking Transparency rules after it was found that third parties are using workarounds to identify users who do not consent to be tracked, according to the Financial Times. Apple rules around App Tracking Transparency, which came into effect as part of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5, require apps to ask for consent to track users across...
apple watch series 6 product red back

Apple Watch Users More Likely to Have Medical Procedures on Their Heart, Study Finds

Wednesday June 2, 2021 9:14 am PDT by
Apple Watch users with an irregular heartbeat are not visiting doctors more often, but they are more likely to be treated with a heart procedure, a study has found (via The Verge). The study examined 125 people with atrial fibrillation and a heart-monitoring wearable, such as the Apple Watch, who visited the University of Utah Health during a 90-day period, and compared them to a group of...
health ios15

Apple Unveils New Health App Features Like Walking Steadiness, Trends, Lab Results, Health Sharing, and More

Monday June 7, 2021 11:11 am PDT by
Apple is bringing new features to the Health app that aim to make it easier to identify, measure, and understanding health changes over time. Mobility tracking will soon capture a new Walking Steadiness metric to assess your fall risk, by measuring speed and evenness of gait. Apple will leverage the data to generate a classification of your steadiness and how it changes over time. Apple...
apple watch series 6 blood oxygen monitoring 1

University Health Network Launches Apple Watch Heart Failure Study That Uses Blood Oxygen App

Thursday February 18, 2021 12:32 pm PST by
The University Health Network today announced the launch of a new study that will aim to find out how the Apple Watch can help with the early identification of heart failure progression. Cardiologist Dr. Heather Ross is teaming up with Apple to compare data collected by the Apple Watch to data routinely collected from the physical tests heart failure patients undergo. The study will...
nba tracking prompt

Apple Now Rejecting App Updates That Defy iOS 14.5 App Tracking Transparency Rules

Thursday April 1, 2021 4:49 pm PDT by
Apple has begun rejecting app updates that do not comply with the App Tracking Transparency rules that the company is enforcing starting with iOS 14.5, according to a new report from Forbes. Apps must ask for permission to access the advertising identifier or IDFA of a user's iPhone in order to track them across apps for ad targeting purposes, a rule that apps will need to comply with when...