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First medical apps built with Apple's ResearchKit won't share data for commercial gain

Fred O'Connor | March 12, 2015
That's the assurance from the companies involved with the mobile framework's first five apps.

"That key is only sitting with us. Nobody else has it. Not Apple, not Sage," Yeung said. He emphasized that people must opt-in to these studies and sign a consent form that explains how their data is being used and shared.

The app developed by Mt. Sinai doesn't "access your personal contacts, other applications, phone use habits, text message content, personal photos, or websites visited," according to the program's privacy policies. The two apps Sage helped create have similar privacy guidelines and don't "access personal contacts, other applications, text message content, or Web sites visited."

Asked what entity will be in charge of ResearchKit going forward, Apple only said that the open-source framework would be added to over time, and declined to be more specific.

Yeung would like to see ResearchKit ported to Android so that studies aren't limited to participants with iPhones. "Apple agreed with that as well," he said.

Sage will handle the data generated by the five apps for the "forseeable future," said Schadt. Stanford Medicine's Yeung said the hospital could manage the data, but since ResearchKit just launched, Sage is handling that function for each app.

"Eventually, will that be the case? I'm not quite sure," he said.

Sage isn't tied to Apple and there aren't technical reasons preventing the organization from eventually supporting Android, said Sage's Suver, who declined to comment on future plans.

Apps developed with ResearchKit aren't required to use Sage and Apple isn't endorsing the nonprofit's data collection services, said Suver. The institutions behind the first set of apps agreed to use Sage.

"Sage would be happy to discuss how our services could be used by other groups wanting to build mobile study apps," she said.


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