Since users of Fitbit have unwittingly shared their ‘sexual workouts’ with the whole of the world wide web, the reasons why 8 out of 10 people have privacy concerns over wearable devices become apparent rather quickly. As wearables surround us, the things they measure — and potentially make public– become more important to us, in the sense of us not willing to share them with the rest of the world.
Users of wearables want not only control over their data, but also, as in the case of Fitbit, expect the handlers of data not to expose such information that may embarrass or harm the user.
Measuring yourself for the public
After taking a quick look at some random user profiles at Endomondo, a popular app with mobile tracking software, I was positively disenchanted with the way they handle data. The default policy seems to be that the duration and time, along with the actual route (in the case of activities for which GPS tracking is used) of the workout is shared publicly with the users of Endomondo. At least that it was so for a dozen or so accounts I checked.
It goes without saying that the data I saw is only important for me as I write this article. I can only guess what someone would do with my Endomondo stats–the best conclusion would be that I’m terrible at schedules and am a lazy runner. On the other hand, thieves (or someone worse) can use a user’s statistics as ‘data leverage’ for their misdeeds. It becomes a matter of waiting for the victim’s long weekend run before burglarizing their home once you know at what times and for how long someone exercises.
Similarly, Adam Tanner of Forbes chronicled the debates within the company of Yale Zhang, a medical device entrepreneur in Atlanta. The data his company’s health trackers collect, like the blood oxygen saturation, heart rate, and perfusion index, is interesting not only to their users. It potentially appeals to data buyers and marketers as well, especially if coupled with the possibility to advertise directly to or identify the users.
Zhang is wondering whether or not, and if so — in what way — to monetize that data. One might say what the article lacked was an image of Zhang holding the proverbial skull, but the question still lingers. It is clear that it’s not the responsibility of the carrier to merely wipe their legal hands clean with lengthy Terms & Conditions. They have to make sure that, if users do want to share their data, they are given direct control over how it gets shared and with whom. Otherwise, things are bound to get ugly, or embarrassing, quick.
(Image Source: Shutterstock)
By Lauris Veips