If a personal health tracker is on your holiday wish list this year, you might want to take note of some troubling information that just came out. A new report suggests the personal data on devices such as fitness bands and high-tech watches may not be safe from prying eyes.
If you sport a Fitbit or Apple Watch on the regular, you probably love the health insights you get from your wearable. You know how much you move, how well you sleep and have likely started tracking patterns and trends as soon as you have enough time logged.But you’re not alone. There are tons of advertisers and big pharma companies interested in your personal health data almost as much as you are — and, according to researchers, they can get it almost as easily as you can.
Researchers say there are precious few safeguards in place to protect your personal health data. According to DigitalTrends.com, that could mean people who wear health trackers may not realize their personal info can be gathered and used, for example, to create more targeted ads.
While devices like Fitbits and Apple Watches certainly have their uses, they’re also being exploited by a range of industries curious to learn more about consumer habits and how best to leverage them for profit. “Many [wearables] 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,” the report says. Alarmingly, researchers concluded that if things continue as they are today, “the extent and nature of data collection will be unprecedented.”
Researchers don’t think health data privacy and security measures have kept pace with evolving technology. To that end, they believe it may be important to bring together government, industry, philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions to develop new ways to protect private health information through –
- Clear, enforceable standards for both 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.
United Press International (UPI) quoted Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy and co-author of the report, as saying, “Americans now are facing a growing loss of their most sensitive information, as their health data are collected and analyzed on a continuous basis, combined with information about their finances, ethnicity, location, and online and off-line behaviors.”
With so many people becoming more involved in managing their own health through personal trackers – we will likely hear much more about these privacy issues in the months ahead. Share your thoughts on what you believe we can do to make sure the personal information of Arizonans is protected. Looking out for the well being of the people of our state is a big part of our long-term goal to one day make Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!