One New Yorker filed a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant Apple on Dec. 24, alleging that the blood oximeter in Apple Watch had a racial bias against people with darker skin tones.
According to Apple’s description, the Blood Oxygen app which is available for Apple Watch Series 6 and newer can measure the owner’s blood oxygen levels on-demand right from the wrist, giving him/her insights into their overall well-being.
In his suit filed in the Southern District of New York, Alex Morales claims that he bought an Apple Watch between 2020 and 2021 believing the watch will measure blood oxygen levels regardless of skin tone.
As the lawsuit claims, the fact that this function does not work as well for Black people and is poorly functioning for people of color amounts to consumer fraud.
Morales filed the complaint on behalf of all Empire State consumers and on behalf of residents of North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Utah, who bought the watches during the relevant statutes of limitations.
Morales’s lawsuit further alleges that by using patients’ records, researchers confirmed the clinical significance of racial bias in pulse oximetry during the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit reads that there have been reports for decades pointing out that such devices are significantly less accurate in measuring blood oxygen levels based on skin color but that this bias’s real-world significance was left unaddressed until the Coronavirus pandemic, which converged with a greater awareness of structural racism existent in many aspects of society.
Despite knowing about the defects of blood oximeters, as Morales claims, Apple was able to sell the watches at a premium price of over $400.
While the tech company still hasn’t commented on the lawsuit and the allegations made in it, it underscores on its website that the Blood Oxygen app measurements are not intended for medical use, including self-diagnosis or consultation with a doctor, but only for general fitness and wellness purposes.