Apple Hearing Study inadvertently collected more health data than requested

Apple Hearing Study collects more data than intended

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Michigan Public Health notified participants in the Apple Hearing Study that the extra data it accidentally collected has been deleted, and an update to the app will prevent the issue from popping up again.

Apple launched the Research app in 2019 alongside three health studies, one of them for hearing health. The Apple Hearing Study is conducted by the World Health Organization and the University of Michigan.

When users signed up for the study, they provided permission for the study to access certain types of data. Those data types include:

  • headphone sound level
  • environmental sound level
  • heart rate
  • workout data types

The data collected is meant to help researchers understand the link between long-term sound exposure and its impact on hearing health. The study was meant to only collect data from the authorized categories for the time after consenting to the study.

AppleInsider was informed of the error in the data collection by reader Chris Sprague. Michigan Public Health emailed Sprague and other participants in the study to notify them of extra data collection, and what was done to rectify the situation.

The study had unintentionally collected 30 days of additional data, which was not requested as part of the study. This occurred due to a bug in the Research app but has since been corrected.

All extra data has been deleted and was not used for research purposes and was never accessed by Apple. Individual participants cannot be identified due to the privacy restrictions and lack of identifiable research subject markers as part of how the Research app functions.

The bug fix is a simple application, and only needs participants to update the Research app from within the App Store.