Tech giant Apple is reportedly working on new technology that aims to help diagnose depression and cognitive decline in its users through facial recognition and other sensors built into its future devices.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is developing new technology that would use an array of sensor data including mobility, physical activity, sleep patterns, typing behavior, facial expressions, and more to diagnose depression and cognitive decline in users.
The new tech project comes as a result of the research partnerships that Apple announced with UCLA, which is currently studying anxiety, depression, and stress. The company’s partnership with Biogen also plays a part in the new initiative as the company is studying mild cognitive impairment.
The code name for Apple’s UCLA project is reportedly “Seabreeze” while the Biogen project is called “Pi,” according to individuals with knowledge of the matter. Biogen began its study on Monday but few details about Apple’s studies have been reported. Biogen received approval from the FDA for a new drug designed to treat mild cognitive impairment.
Top Apple executives are reportedly passionate about the project. Apple COO Jeff Williams, who oversees the company’s health unit, has reportedly spoken excitedly to employees about the tech giant’s potential to address depression and anxiety, and other brain disorders.
However, many have worried that Apple is taking far too many liberties with its users’ data in recent months. Apple appears to be overreaching in relation to user privacy in a number of ways, most notably was the company’s recent plans to scan users iOS devices claiming that they were searching for child sexual abuse material.
Apple claimed that the way it detects child sex abuse material (CSAM) is “designed with user privacy in mind,” and it is not directly accessing iCloud users’ photos, but rather utilizing a device-local, hash-based lookup and matching system to cross-reference the hashes of user photos with the hashes of known CSAM. If there is a match between a user’s photos and the CSAM database, Apple manually reviews the issue and will then disable the user’s account before sending a report to NCMEC.
However, many privacy experts were quick to express fears about the new system. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted about the issue stating: “No matter how well-intentioned, @Apple is rolling out mass surveillance to the entire world with this. Make no mistake: if they can scan for kiddie porn today, they can scan for anything tomorrow.”
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Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org