Miscellaneous 4 min. read

8 Personal Privacy Concerns Posed by Wearable Technology

Your personal privacy is of the utmost importance, so it might come as a surprise that some of your wearable technology could pose a privacy threat. From smart watches and calorie counters to every piece of mobile tech in between, the convenience of wearable technology also comes with privacy threats if you don’t play it safe with your gear. In order to help keep your private life under wraps, here are eight privacy concerns you should know about with wearable technology.

The Third-Party Problem

If you have the latest, greatest wearable health-monitoring device that records and stores your every move, then your personal privacy could be in jeopardy. Although HIPAA protects your digital health privacy, the Department of Health has yet to tackle the third-party issue with wearable devices.

So what exactly is at stake? Well, by accepting your wearable device’s user license, you could also be allowing the manufacturer to share your very personal health information with third-party vendors. These third parties might not have the same data protection standards your device provides, which means your health information is unprotected and out in the open for any number of digital eyes to see.

Rampant Data Collection

Whether you have a smart watch that acts as a sidekick to your mobile device or you’re considering buying Google Glass one day, wearable technology is collecting more of your personal data than you might think. The moment you accept the license agreement, wearable tech starts collecting your personal information. Oftentimes, this is to improve your experience, but it’s for other reasons too.

For example, the data collected from your wearable device is passed along to vendors that use that information to customize marketing efforts based on your daily activities. In some cases, the data collection even includes information as personalized as your spending and eating habits, which is then used for further marketing.

Personal Privacy in Proximity

When you decide to take wearable technology with you wherever you go, you’re de-privatizing your world. But did you know you’re also putting the privacy of those around you at risk, too? Wearable recording devices like Google Glass not only record information based on your habits, but the habits of those within your proximity.

This poses a unique risk in that your daily activities also include the activities of the general public who didn’t accept your wearable device’s license agreement. Although Google has already agreed to forgo including facial recognition technology in their eyeglasses, this doesn’t stop other companies from incorporating such privacy infiltrating technology in their wearable devices.

Roaming Unsecure Wi-Fi Networks

It’s pretty safe to say that if you’re taking advantage of the mobile benefits of wearable technology, then you’re probably dipping in and out of Wi-Fi networks regularly. Although there are ways to protect your VPN, Wi-Fi capable wearable technology still poses privacy concerns when it comes to unencrypted networks.

Many wearable devices prompt users to connect to unspecified networks, but some settings allow wearable devices to connect automatically to Wi-Fi networks regardless of encryption. This is especially the case with smart watches that rely on a Wi-Fi connection to complete tasks. The unprotected roaming of Wi-Fi networks could spell trouble for your privacy depending on what or who is lurking within the network.

Update Complications

Wearable technology needs software updates much like your smartphone and other mobile devices, but with the ever-evolving technology behind wearable devices, important updates oftentimes take longer than they should to reach the consumer. This includes security updates and patches that basically have to jump through hoops to integrate into the wearable device itself.

Many software patch cycles take months between the time a security issue is discovered and the update is released. And, because wearable technology is changing by the second, these update cycles can take even longer. During the in-between, your personal privacy could be at stake.

Shorter Periods of Support

As mentioned before, the technology behind wearable devices is evolving at a lightning fast pace. Although this means good news for the future of wearable tech, it also means trouble for your privacy. When new and improved wearable devices hit the market, the support for current devices, which includes security updates, oftentimes dwindle.

From smart watches to health monitoring devices, wearable technology runs on software support. When the newest version of something comes out, manufacturers and software developers set their sights on improving the most recent version. In fact, many smart device manufacturers are only required to support their devices for 12 to 18 months, which means you either have to upgrade your wearable device or suffer the privacy and security consequences.

Proximity-Based Hacking

Wearable devices thrive on proximity-based technology, which also makes them vulnerable to hacking. In terms of mobility, many wearable device manufacturers are using near field communication to optimize the user experience. NFC technology does add a level of convenience to wearable devices in the form of a customized experience, but it also adds a level of concern for security.

In fact, hackers are already taking advantage of the security flaws in NFC and Wi-Fi technology to infiltrate mobile and wearable devices. As these devices evolve and become more capable of collecting and storing your personal information, they also turn into prized targets for proximity-based hackers.

Device Theft

While laptops and tablets are stored in bags or left at home, and smartphones tend to live in pockets or purses, wearable technology tends to be more out in the open. Whether it’s a smart watch or the highly desirable Google Glass, wearable device theft is quickly becoming a problem as more consumers start wearing their devices in public.

Not only does most wearable technology come with a pretty high price tag, it also contains your personal information that’s equally as valuable to criminals. So, just like the digital privacy threats above, theft is also added to the list of potential privacy concerns that go along with wearable technology.

If wearable technology is your favorite accessory, make sure you keep in mind the privacy threats above.

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