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Wearable Technology and Data Safety

The rise of wearable technology and a consumer interest in privacy have collided in dual surges of interest in both interests. Questions around the value of almost constant data points related to one’s life and what could happen if these data points end up in the wrong hands are swirling. Last year, 21 million wearable tech devices were purchased around the world. But even as more people are wearing sometimes multiple devices, many consumers have concerns. A Healthline survey found more than 45% of wearable and mobile app users had significant concerns that their personal data might be hacked.

Data collected by wearables and third-party apps might seem benign. Your sleep patterns, weight changes, average heart rates, and fitness habits are among the most popularly tracked data points. Aggregating that data, however, could provide evidenced-based support related to your health risks. What if you were suddenly faced with a higher healthcare premium or your policy was cancelled completely based on your wearable’s reports of health indicators?

Consumers should also be aware that their data might be stored for long periods of time. As companies merge, go out of business, or even just move physical locations, your data could be compromised. Credit card companies handle massive breaches by cancelling entire accounts and issuing new cards and associated account numbers. Personal information, like social security numbers and birthdates, though can’t be changed. Hackers are aware that wearable tech holds valuable information. Consumers must be vigilant.

We’ve asked the experts and here are a few ways to balance the benefits of wearable tech devices while maintaining your security:

  • Most people use a third-party app in combination with their wearable tech device. Around 43%, however, stop using the app within 6 months of starting it. Even though you aren’t checking in with your app, the device is still collecting data. Find out policies and procedures to delete data from servers to minimize your risk of a breach.
  • Consider splurging on more expensive devices because their manufacturers tend to incorporate security measures. Larger companies, like Apple and Samsung, are making considerable efforts to incorporate security in device development from design to market.
  • Read, read, read your user agreement. Companies can put anything in their user agreement. They can’t predict breaches but consumers are increasingly pushing back to ask companies how they will protect their privacy if it’s not already detailed in these agreements.

Unlike data breaches experienced by major retailers and credit card companies, consumers haven’t yet seen major headlines of data breaches related to wearable tech devices. Most experts believe that it’s only a matter of time. Still, millions of consumers credit wearable tech with significant improvements to their quality of life. People are getting healthier, changing habits, and better managing their lives, which many credit to the wearable branch of the Internet of Things (IoT). Weighing benefits with risks is an ongoing focus for both consumers and manufacturers of wearable tech devices. As both parties increase their awareness and interest in securing these devices benefits for both are predicted to rise.

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