Who would have thought that the Apple Watch would be at the center of a heated debate about racial discrimination?
A class action lawsuit against Apple claims that its Watch’s blood oxygen sensor is racially biased against individuals with dark skin tones.
The lawsuit comes from Apple Insider, plaintiff Alex Morales who purchased the product between 2020 and 2021. He believed that the watch’s oximetry features functioned correctly despite skin color but this was not the case.
Besides false advertising, Morales claims that this can put a consumer’s health at risk if they rely on the oxygen sensor for information about supplemental oxygen levels, putting Black individuals at a higher risk of hypoxemia.
On December 24, Morales filed the lawsuit on behalf of all New York consumers that purchased an Apple Watch during the statute of limitations, and consumers from nine other states in coordination with those states’ individual consumer fraud laws. Additionally, the lawsuit calls upon fraud, unjust enrichment and breaches of express warranty.
“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," the lawsuit alleges.
Blood oximetry sensors on smartwatches are no new feat in the world of tech gadgets and their ability to accurately read blood oxygen levels has always been questionable. Big brands often add disclaimers to make sure that users do not rely on these statistics for medical diagnoses.
Such is the case with Apple, which also enunciates that the blood oxygen sensor is created for general fitness and wellness purposes. "Blood Oxygen app measurements are not intended for medical use, including self-diagnosis or consultation with a doctor," states the company.
Although Apple has not released an official statement about the lawsuit, it is yet to be seen whether consumers are simply expecting too much from a smartwatch.