New York A.G. Settles Over Fake Fitness Claims in Apps

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - JANUARY 2:  People run on treadmills at a New York Sports Club January 2, 2003 in Brooklyn, New York. Thousands of people around the country join health clubs in the first week of the new year as part of their New Year's resolution. M



“Mobile health apps can benefit consumers if they function as advertised, do not make misleading claims, and protect sensitive user information" - NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is settling with three popular health-related apps over misleading claims.

The apps in question are Cardiio, Runtastic, and Matis. They have been available from Apple's App Store and Google Play.

Two app developers claimed that their apps accurately measured heart rate after vigorous exercise using only a smartphone camera and sensors. Another even claimed that its app transformed a smartphone into a fetal heart monitor.  

The Attorney General's Office names the apps that are involved and why:

  • Cardiio, an American company that sells Cardiio, an app downloaded hundreds of thousands of times that claims to measure heart rate. The developer had not tested its accuracy with users who had engaged in vigorous exercise, despite marketing the app for that purpose. The developer also misleadingly implied that the app was endorsed by MIT.
  • Runtastic, an Austria-based company that sells Runtastic, an app that purports to measure heart rate and cardiovascular performance under stress. Yet the developer failed to test its accuracy with users who had engaged in vigorous exercise, despite marketing the app for that purpose to the 1 million people who downloaded it.
  • Matis, an Israel-based company that sells My Baby’s Beat, an app downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, which Matis previously claimed could turn any smartphone into a fetal heart monitor, despite the fact that it has never been approved by the FDA. Although Matis exhorted consumers to use My Baby’s Beat rather than a fetal heart monitor or Doppler, it never conducted, for example, a comparison to a fetal heart monitor, Doppler, or any other device that had been scientifically proven to amplify the sound of a fetal heartbeat.

The settlement requires the companies make it clear that their apps are not medical devices and are not approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration. 

There is also an agreement that is meant to protect consumers’ privacy.  The developers will be now required to disclose that they collect and share information that may be personally identifying. This includes users’ GPS location, unique device identifier, and “de-identified” data that third parties may be able to use to re-identify specific users.

Photo: Getty Images

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