Apple Watch is racist
Device’s blood oxygen sensor becomes less accurate as user’s skin darkens, US plaintiff claims
Apple profited at the expense of dark-skinned customers by charging a premium for an Apple Watch that knowingly incorporated a faulty “blood oxygen sensor” feature, a class action lawsuit filed last week in New York.
Plaintiff Alex Morales bought his own Apple Watch between 2020 and 2021 after Covid-19 made pulse oximeters, which use infrared light to estimate the amount of oxygen in the blood, a must-have for monitoring vital signs at residence. According to the suit, he assumed the feature would work”regardless of skin tone“because Apple did not disclose any”prejudices and faults“On the label.
But scientific studies have shown that pulse oximeters produce inaccurate readings for patients with darker skin tones, due to the melanin in their skin absorbing the infrared light from the device as if it were well-saturated blood. . Public ignorance of this disparity arguably contributed to the disproportionate number of Covid-19 deaths among black and Hispanic Americans compared to whites, as dangerously low oxygen levels would have gone unnoticed even in a medical setting.
Citing a similar study, the New York lawsuit argued that “false and misleading representations” accuracy of his own device puts lives at risk.
Morales sued on behalf of a New York state consumer group who purchased the $400 device during the pandemic, accusing Apple of violating New York’s General Business Law and the state consumer fraud laws in addition to breaching its express warranty and engaging in fraud and unjust enrichment. . The suit also includes customers in Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming under those states’ consumer fraud laws.
Apple’s blood oxygen sensor was found to be roughly equivalent to “medical gradedevices in an October review, though the company insists on its website that the feature is “designed for general fitness and wellness purposes only,” rather than “medical use, including self-diagnosis or consultation with a doctor.”
While Apple’s own June study found that blood oxygen levels did not differ significantly between white and non-white Apple Watch users, its website mentions that “permanent or temporary changes to your skin, such as certain tattoos, can also impact performance.”
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