Lack of regulation leads to privacy risks

Dec 16, 2016 22:31 GMT  ·  By  ·  Comment  · 

Health wearable devices and apps have become increasingly popular over the past few years, as they help users monitor their heart rate, calories, sleep patterns and even stress levels. There’s no doubt that they can have a positive impact on the user’s health, but it seems that they might also pose some privacy concerns.

A report entitled Health Wearable Devices in the Big Data Era issued by the Center for Digital Democracy tackles the issue of health wearables and big data systems. Watches and fitness bands are all connected to apps and smartphones, as part of a system focusing on finding efficient ways for people to manage their health.

However, consumer personal data might be at risk, seeing how the regulatory system in the US fails to protect user privacy, as the report suggests. It states that “many of these devices are already being integrated into a growing Big Data digital health and marketing ecosystem, which is focused on gathering and monetizing personal health data in order to influence consumer behavior.”

Wearable companies are reportedly selling individual personal data

Companies find many ways to target users with ads, some of them are based on location, while others employ techniques like condition targeting, scoring and even selling or buying of personal data. There’s a plus side to this whole matter, though, as insurance companies will be able to provide personalized policies, just like it happened in the case of Fitbit’s partnership with some healthcare companies.

But the industry is growing and the report says that “wearable companies will either be part of large digital marketing operations, or create their own ad networks and buy data themselves from marketing clouds to enhance consumer profiles in order to engage in targeted marketing.”

For Americans to avoid loss of their most sensitive information, the report suggests some actions to be taken, like enforceable standards for the collection and use of information, formal processes for assessing the benefits and risks of data use and stronger regulation of direct-to-consumer marketing by pharmaceutical companies.

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