Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Digital Fitness Trackers: Healthy Self-Assessment or Privacy Overshare?

I love my Fitbit. With the click of a button I can see how well I slept (95% efficiently last night!) or if I've been particularly active (my meager 14,209 steps pales in comparison to the  60,000+ steps records of David Sedaris). The beauty of the device is that I can upload my data and track it in the long term. When did I get that cold? Oh yeah---early May. I can tell by the sharp reduction in my steps for the week and my surge in hours slept.

So Fitbit knows a ton of information about me and thousands of other users. I'm not sure how I'd feel about that data being shared. Fitbit's Privacy Policy, the terms of which you accept presumably just by using the device, say your data is shared only with you and not sold...unless that data has been "de-identified." In other words, Fitbit could aggregate all data related to women aged 30-35 living in Ohio and sell it or do who knows what with it. I suppose I'm okay with that, but I'm not quite convinced I'm okay with this. Will it stop me from using my beloved Fitbit? I doubt it.

But sometimes sharing the Fitbit data can have an upside, and a court in Canada will be the proving ground:
Forbes recently reported that a law firm in Calgary is working on the first known personal injury case that will use Fitbit data to demonstrate the effects of an accident on their client.  
The plaintiff was injured in an accident four years ago, before Fitbits were on the market, but she was a personal trainer - obviously very active. Her lawyers at McLeod Law will start processing data from her Fitbit to show that her activity levels are now under a baseline for someone of her age and profession.
Want to learn more? Try Professor Margot Kaminski's Privacy Law class next semester.