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Makers of smart watches and fitness trackers must do more to protect user privacy: Human Data Commons report

VANCOUVER (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories) — December 10, 2019

The makers of smart watches and fitness trackers are not doing enough to protect their users’ privacy, according to a new report released by the Human Data Commons Foundation.

The 2019 Quantified Self Report Card reviewed the terms and privacy policies of 18 leading manufacturers of smart watches and fitness trackers. The Report Card graded companies on legal rights, data collection and sharing, data access, and security. It gives consumers information about which companies respect their privacy and legal rights and encourages companies to make better choices for their users.

The Report Card highlights the surprising ways companies use data collected about people using fitness trackers and smart watches. It found many companies create marketing profiles of users by combining fitness data with information from social media and other sources. Some partnered with insurance companies to share fitness data. It found companies will share information with police in criminal investigations.

“Smart watches and fitness trackers are popular holiday gifts. There are many review sites comparing features and what it’s like to use the fitness trackers and smart watches these companies make,” said Greg McMullen, co-author of the report. “We think it’s just as important to look at how the companies use your data.”

The Report Card ranked Apple in first place. “Apple is trying to make privacy a competitive advantage, and that’s good for their users,” said McMullen. However, he warned that making privacy a product comes with its own risks: “Privacy should not be a luxury. Privacy is a human right.”

Suunto and TomTom tied for second in the Report Card, followed by Xiaomi, Huawei, and Withings. Fitbit and Google’s Wear OS platform placed in the middle of the pack. Samsung and Moov finished at the bottom of the class. Both companies have aggressive data collection and sharing practices, and terms that limit users’ rights.

The 2019 Report Card is the third annual report from the Human Data Commons Foundation, a Vancouver not-for-profit that aims to inspire the tech sector and empower citizens to build a more equitable and sustainable digital future for all.

The Report Card is free on the Human Data Commons website: https://humandatacommons.org/hdc-quantified-self-report-card-2019/

About HDC

The Human Data Commons Foundation (HDC) is a non-profit based in Vancouver, Canada, inspiring the tech sector and everyday citizens towards an equitable and sustainable future for all.

HDC does this by convening and facilitating interdisciplinary, inclusive stakeholder collaborations and culture shaping.

Our actions include:

    • creating awareness through events and education
    • generating ideas for change
    • advocating for higher industry standards
    • supporting seed projects

We envision a world free of unintended consequences.