Wearables and fitness apps - are they fit to protect your privacy? No.
- Author: Niklas Drexler
- Last updated: 03.07.2023
- Category: Data Security
They are convenient, small, and you carry them with you all the time: we are talking about fitness apps and wearable smart devices that track your fitness and health data. Few users think about what happens to their own personal data when these nifty little gadgets upload your information to a cloud and make it available to others.
Collecting, comparing and analysing data about your physical condition has never been easier. Tracking systems connected to health app providers collect fitness data and sell it to third parties. Your personal data is worth a lot of money. What's more, most health app providers behave as if they've never heard of privacy. They do not ask for users' consent to process their data, nor are users adequately informed about what happens to their personal data. The ability to delete such data is often poorly explained to users.
But it is not just that this valuable collection of data is sold on to advertising services for profit. There is also the risk that health insurance companies or employers will gain access to this data without the user's consent or knowledge. So far, public health insurance companies have consistently refused to allow such use of data because it clearly violates compliance rules. Contrary to that, private health insurers which act on basic economic principles, have a strong interest in such data. Even if some ambitious users might welcome the opportunity to prove their health and fitness to their employers: The control of one's own personal data should remain with the individual user.
It is only since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that data protection advocates have been able to find a legal basis for taking action against data protection violations by health app providers.
Therefore, it is important to remember that if you are using health apps and wearables on a daily basis and are diligently feeding data to these apps and wearables, you should at least be aware that your personal data is not very well protected.