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Lawsuit claims Apple Watch sensor is racist

Wednesday December 28, 2022. 03:30 PM , from Mac Daily News
A new class action lawsuit against Apple alleges that the blood oxygen sensor on the Apple Watch is racially biased against people with dark skin tones.
The Blood Oxygen sensor on the back crystal of Apple Watch
Blood oxygen measurements use a bright red light that shines through the skin of user’s wrist. Via the Blood Oxygen app on Apple Watch Series 6 or later, users can measure the percentage of oxygen their red blood cells carry from their lungs to the rest of the body. Knowing how well oxygenated your blood is can help you understand your overall health and wellness.
Note that the back of the Apple Watch needs skin contact for the Blood Oxygen app to get accurate readings. Wearing your Apple Watch not too tight or too loose, with room for your skin to breath, helps ensure successful Blood Oxygen measurements. The band should be snug but comfortable, and the back of your Apple Watch needs to be touching your wrist.
Apple Watch Series 6 and later models feature a Blood Oxygen sensor and app to conveniently measure the oxygen saturation of blood so users can better understand their overall fitness and wellness.
Andrew Orr for AppleInsider:

Plaintiff Alex Morales says he purchased an Apple Watch between 2020 and 2021. He says that he was aware that the device has pulse oximetry features, and believed it did this without regard to skin tone.
“For decades, there have been reports that such devices were significantly less accurate in measuring blood oxygen levels based on skin color,” the lawsuit alleges. “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.”
Morales filed the lawsuit on December 24 on behalf of all New York consumers who bought an Apple Watch during the statutes of limitations. He also sued on behalf of residents in Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming under those states’ consumer fraud laws.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple clearly states in its “How to use the Blood Oxygen app on Apple Watch” support article, to which the Apple Watch User Guide is directly linked:
Even under ideal conditions, your Apple Watch may not be able to get a reliable blood oxygen measurement every time. For a small percentage of users, various factors may make it impossible to get any blood oxygen measurement. [bold emphasis added, MDN Ed.]
Permanent or temporary changes to your skin, such as some tattoos, can also impact performance. The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult for the Blood Oxygen app to get a measurement.
Further, Apple’s “Blood Oxygen app on 
Apple Watch” document states:
During the development and evaluation of the Blood Oxygen feature, Apple collected data in multiple institutional review board (IRB)–approved studies involving many hundreds of participants who consented to the collection and use of their data for this purpose. These studies included controlled laboratory studies and supervised data collection sessions under a variety of user behaviors, cardiorespiratory conditions, and ambient environments, including real or simulated altitudes to span the 70–100% blood oxygen saturation range (based on conventional finger pulse oximetry or arterial blood sampling).
Subject pools included a wide range of skin types and tones to ensure that the sensor platform can accommodate the full range of users and maintain accuracy. At the wavelengths that Apple Watch uses, melanin is a strong light absorber — particularly in the green and red part of the spectrum — potentially making PPG measurements more difficult in users with darker skin tones. To account for this, the 
Apple Watch sensing platform senses the amount of detected light signals, and it automatically adjusts 
 the LED current (and hence the light output), photodiode gain (sensitivity to light), and sampling rate to ensure adequate signal resolution across the range of human skin tones…
Recent literature has raised concerns of significant SpO2 reading bias and degraded accuracy in Black patients. In the subjects included in our controlled lab study, we did not observe a skin-tone dependence in Arms or mean reading differences when compared with blood.
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