Newest iPhone feature: depression detection?

• Apple wants to develop an app to detect depression through your iPhone, according to a report.
• The Silicon Valley giant has teamed up with UCLA and Biogen to start the research.
• It plans to use data like
sleep patterns and typing behavior from the iPhone and Apple Watch that could alert someone if they are depressed and should seek help.

As if privacy invasion weren’t already a concern, Apple now wants to dive into your medical data — by detecting depression and cognitive decine through your iPhone, according to a report.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the tech giant hopes to gather user data that includes physical activity levels, sleep patterns, mobility, typing behavior, and other health information using a new health care software designed to diagnose and screen for depression and cognitive decline.

Apple aims to use the data to refine algorithms that can detect the conditions reliably, the report said.

The development of the software is part of a partnership between Apple and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and researchers from Biogen, a biotechnology company behind the controversial Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm.

Project Seabreeze & Pi

The Journal said Apple’s working under two code names for both projects — “Seabreeze” for its UCLA work and “Pi” with Biogen. Apple and UCLA are studying anxiety, depression, and stress and Biogen is researching mild cognitive impairment.

UCLA’s research began with a pilot phase last fall where it started tracking Apple Watch and iPhone data. They are using data from the iPhone’s video camera, keyboard, and audio sensors, as well as sleep patterns, vital signs, and movement from the Apple Watch.

Citing people familiar with the research and documents, the report said the data may also include analysis of peoples’ facial expressions, how they speak, their walking and sleep habits, in addition to their vital signs, which would give researchers information about the device users’ cognitive health.

If the research goes as planned, an app or feature could be produced to warn people they might be suffering from depression and should seek help. Additionally, Biogen hopes Apple can develop a feature to detect cognitive impairment early.

Apple’s dive into mental health isn’t surprising considering how the Apple Watch provides metrics already used to track health like heart rate, respiratory activity, physical activity, and more.

These metrics are cataloged and users can monitor their health through the Health app, which several other smartwatch brands — like Garmin and Fitbit – provide as well.

More privacy concerns

Critics argue that Apple’s latest endeavor is another step in the wrong direction for the tech giant after the company received backlash earlier this year when it announced it would scan U.S. users’ iPhones in search of child sexual abuse material.

They use NeuralHash technology to comb through images before they are uploaded to iCloud and would see if any content matched material from a database maintained by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Apple had anticipated launching the feature sometime in 2021 but announced earlier in September that it planned to delay the detection technology.

It remains unknown how long the delay will occur.

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