Health Wearable Devices: Why These Could Pose Consumer And Privacy Risks

Personal health wearable devices are very popular nowadays.  These are used to monitor heart rates, sleep patterns, calories, and even stress levels.  However, these devices may also pose a serious risk on the privacy security of users.

Advertisers And Drug Companies May Use Your Health Information

A study published by Center for Digital Democracy and American University shows that health wearables almost have no privacy safeguards in place for consumer health data.  Devices like Fitbits and Apple Watches can be exploited by advertisers and pharma companies to learn more about consumer habits and how best use them for profit.

According to the report: "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."

Wearable Devices Could Be Powerful Data Collection Tools

Big-Data practices are being developed to harness the unique capabilities of wearables, like biosensors that track bodily functions, and "haptic technology" that enables users to "feel" actual body sensations, the report said.  Consumer data is very valuable that rather than selling this information, 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.

The researchers suggest that standards for collection and use of information should be put in place.  They also suggested formal processes for assessing the benefits and risks of data use and stronger regulation of direct-to-consumer marketing by pharmaceutical companies.

One of the authors of the study, Kathryn C. Montgomery, Professor of Communication with American University, said: "The connected-health system is still in an early, fluid stage of development.  There is an urgent need to build meaningful, effective, and enforceable safeguards into its foundation."

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