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.
HDC contributed a chapter in this 2018 publication that examines what is meant by “metric culture” and takes a critical look at the many ways practices of self-tracking and quantification that have emerged in almost every sphere of life.
A Quantified Self Report Card: Ethical Considerations of Privacy as Commodity
Chelsea Palmer, Rochelle Fairfield
Publication date: 24 September 2018