Apple Begins To Research Whether iPhones Can Detect Mental Health Issues

Apple Begins To Research Whether iPhones Can Detect Mental Health Issues


Despite its marketing promise of privacy, Apple has become more creepy over the decade in the amount of data it collects from users. Some of that data includes location information, usage time, health data, and transaction data, among others. The company uses the data for targeted advertising.

According to a WSJ, it wants to repurpose the data and determine if users are depressed, anxious, or experiencing a cognitive decline.

Citing internal Apple documents and people familiar with the matter, WSJ said Apple is working with scientists to collect users' health data that can easily be extracted from iPhone and other Apple devices that could one day warn if users are at risk of mental health problems

The research is part of a new study with Apple and Biogen and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), announced earlier this year. Apple's research with Biogen concentrates on cognitive deterioration while UCLA examines users for signs of stress, anxiety, and depression.

UCLA researchers use an iPhone's camera, microphone, keyboard, and Apple Watch to collect data on users. Citing documents and their sources, the researchers monitor heart and breathing rates, sleep patterns, how fast someone walks, and how users speak. They also measure the speed and frequency of typos. 

During the study, users will fill out surveys about their current mental state, and researchers will measure stress hormones. 

As for the Biogen and Apple study that will track the cognitive function of users, the study will include 20,000 people and last two years. The first of the research trials began Monday.

While Apple's intentions appear to be good and could help a lot of people who don't realize they're depressed or experiencing neurological decline, there's always the risk that a "Minority Report" like detection system could be created that could alert authorities about unstable people and their risk of committing a crime. 

Red flags are being raised as the company's commitment to privacy has vanished as it plans to work with the government to scan iPhones for child pornography

Besides privacy issues, there's other research that suggests smartphone use coincides with increase mental health issues. It seems like researchers may have to rethink their trials for accurate results.


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