The Double Life of a Fitness Tracking Device!
Contributor Vanessa Louise Braeley, Associate Attorney with NeJame Law
Fitness trackers are really very simple: they count steps; measure sleep; analyze your diet and tabulate metrics such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, perspiration, body weight and body mass. The aggregate of all this information provides astounding information about one’s overall health and daily habits.
Thing is, this information isn’t being provided to just the user. Third party companies also have access to your personal health information, and they’re paying a lot of money for it. The privacy controversy surrounding these health trackers has been a cause for concern by the government in the past and continues to be a topic addressed by lobbyists.
In May of 2014, the FTC held a meeting about these fitness trackers and healthcare apps, focusing on statistics of exactly how much of this information is being bought, who the purchasers of the health databases are, and the privacy protections, consents and disclaimers that should be available to every user of fitness trackers and healthcare apps.
The FTC studied 43 different fitness trackers and health apps (wearables not included) and found:
• 13% of the free apps and 10% of the paid apps encrypted all data connections between the app and the developer’s website.
One app tested transmitted information to eighteen (18) different third-parties. That information included device information, consumer specific information (name, email, user name), workout and diet information. Twenty-two (22) of the observed third parties were able to obtain the following information: exercise, diet, medical and symptom search information, zip code, location, and gender. Scary, right?
So before you become part of the world’s largest healthcare experiment, make sure there are privacy policies protecting your information on all health and fitness apps, gadgets and widgets. And for crying out loud, read the fine print!