If you’re an avid Best Reviews reader, you know by now that we are dedicated to warn you about the dangers of the digital world and mostly about the Internet of Things. In fact, most people are unaware of the risks hanging above their head every time they open their browser. Professional sportsmen and sportswomen are no exception either, nor casual runners and sports enthusiasts. Besides the obvious, they also share the common trait of using wearable devices, such as heart rate monitors, fitness bands and whatnot to track their best time, calories burned or other health information. However, all the smart clothing linked to apps and mobile devices can pose risks, including smart watches, reminding us constantly of the old motto: if it’s online, it isn’t private.
Old Habits Die Hard
We could write an article about your health thanking you when you go for a run from time to time. But instead, we’ll focus on our favorite topic of security: a new report entitled “Health Wearable Devices in the Big Data Era: Ensuring Privacy, Security, and Consumer Protection” heralds the urgency of reviewing the safety of all the health-related wearable devices, since federal laws don’t protect the personal health information collected by these. In fact, the health-privacy regulatory system was found to be “weak and fragmented” failing to provide “adequate safeguards”.
Written by three experts also responsible for the approval of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) – which we have referred to before – the report states that “many devices are already being integrated into a growing big data digital health and marketing ecosystem, which is focused on gathering and monetizing personal and health data in order to influence consumer behavior”. This quotation triggers red lights as we wonder if those handy fitness bands are indeed sending our health information to the companies for targeted advertising purposes, with pharmaceutical companies on top of said list. The report calls this the future of advertising – the so called “wearable ads” – and with smart watches the advertisements would really come up close and personal. Furthermore, wearable devices don’t require consent from their users regarding what information is collected and, not to mention, the way corporations deal with their private health data is a grey area as well.
The Future of Online Privacy
Considering the unquenchable hunger companies have for our personal data, it’s understandable that people are having doubts about the future of online privacy. The extended reliance on the internet, the overall use of globally connected devices and the flow of advertising and aggressive marketing campaigns are growing at an accelerated pace. In addition, factors like internet freedom are in constant danger as even the most liberal governments are enforcing some sort of regulation to it, besides getting more and more intrusive about our online behavior. Public exposures such as the Snowden scandal are likely to continue or even increase, since the new President of the United States already denoted a pro-surveillance position that should sacrifice more privacy from American citizens . Whether we like it or not, it seems that online privacy is becoming a relic of the past instead of a tool for a brighter future.