Beware: Wearable Tracking Device Data Can Be Sold to Third Parties

Fit Bit Data is not covered by HIPPA

During a news conference on Sunday August 10th, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) discussed the lack of regulations over data collected by wearable health-monitoring devices, Long Island Newsday reports (Ngo, Long Island Newsday, 8/10).

Background

In 2013, research by analytics and privacy firm Evidon highlighted the details of such data sharing.

The research specifically analyzed the top 20 health and wellness smartphone applications worldwide.

The firm found that the apps shared personal health data with up to 70 third-party companies. For example, user data from United Kingdom-based jogging app MapMyRun was sent to 11 different firms, including advertising firms.

Researchers found that third-party companies -- most of which were advertising and analytics groups -- generally focused on data related to specific health issues, including:

  • Diets;
  • Diseases; and
  • Menstrual cycles.

Overall, the study determined that the organizations used the data to build consumer profiles or display personalized ads (iHealthBeat, 9/9/13).

Schumer's Comments

Schumer noted that individuals using popular fitness-monitoring devices should be aware that their data can be sold to third parties, including:

  • Employers;
  • Insurers; and
  • Mortgage lenders.

Further, Schumer called on the Federal Trade Commission to alert users of such devices that their data can be sold and to ensure they have the option to opt out.

He noted that wearable tracking devices are not regulated under HIPAA.

Schumer said, "The kind of privacy laws that should protect us have not caught up to the new technology that helps keep us healthy" (Long Island Newsday, 8/10).

Source: iHealthBeat, Monday, August 11, 2014

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