Apple faces class-action lawsuit alleging ‘racial bias’ in watch’s blood oximeter

A New York man filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple on Dec. 24, alleging that the Apple Watch’s blood oximeter has a “racial bias” against individuals with darker skin tones. 

The Blood Oxygen app is available on Apple Watch Series 6 and newer and can “measure the oxygen level of your blood on-demand directly from your wrist, providing you with insights into your overall wellness,” Apple explains. 

New York resident Alex Morales alleges that he purchased an Apple Watch between 2020 and 2021, and was aware that the watch “purported to measure blood oxygen levels and he believed it did this without regard to skin tone,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Southern District of New York. 

The lawsuit further alleges that during the coronavirus pandemic, researchers “confirmed the clinical significance of racial bias of pulse oximetry” using patients’ records. 

“For decades, there have been reports that such devices were significantly less accurate in measuring blood oxygen levels based on skin color,” the lawsuit reads. 

“The ‘real world significance’ of this bias lay unaddressed until the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, which converged with a greater awareness of structural racism which exists in many aspects of society.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. The tech company notes on its website that the Blood Oxygen app is “only designed for general fitness and wellness purposes.”

“Blood Oxygen app measurements are not intended for medical use, including self-diagnosis or consultation with a doctor,” Apple writes. 

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