Posted By Simon Montford on Nov 27, 2014
In 2012, Basis was one of the first OEMs to launch a fitness tracking watch. Recently the company announced a new version called the Basis Peak. It's as smart as a smart watch gets and can track optical heart rate, perspiration, ambient temperature, and skin temperature. What is particularly cool, if not a little disconcerting, is that it knows what you're up to, whether you're sleeping, swimming, cycling or partaking in other forms of 'strenuous exercise'!
It comes with an app that nudges you towards your activity goals (available for both iOS and Android), an interchangeable strap feature and gorilla glass. On sale next month for around $200.
However this is where the infomercial takes a sinister turn...
Allegedly the company has received several complaints that Basis have being slow to release an API that would allow their users access to 'their' activity data. One has allegedly even accused the company of keeping their data 'hostage', which is a clear indication of the level of frustration experienced by some customers.
It is possible that many other OEMs such as Nike (Fuelband), FitBit, Pebble, Jawbone, Misfit could be subjected to the same complaints by customers who are becoming increasingly concerned about how their personal data is being stored, accessed and ultimately used.
Maybe the reason why OEMs are so reluctant to hand over their customers' data is because there's gold in them there hills! In addition to making money from flogging hardware, there is big bucks to be made syndicating everyone's personal data to enterprises of all kinds. Examples include city planners, advertisers and health insurance firms.
Thankfully data protection is enforced more rigorously in Europe but things are different elsewhere.
A recent study by the FCC in the United States, discovered that a number of health and fitness app developers had indeed been reselling personal data to over seventy different third parties! This is not generic data but stuff like full name, email, exercise and nutrition habits, location and symptoms! This data could be used by insurance companies to adjust premiums or credit agencies to evaluate creditworthiness. Of course the majority of fitness-related companies and app developers (including the aforementioned) currently do not resell data but most could, if they wanted to.
Last year I held my very own quantified self experiment and after accruing millions of FuelPoints, steps, weigh-ins, calories burned, hours of sleep - I gave up. I also tried using a nutrition app called MyFitnessPal which turned out not to be MyFitnessPal, it turned out to be my IcantBeBotheredtodothisAnymorePal.
So is all the blood, sweat and tears of generating all this data worth it anyway, knowing that the net benefit of my efforts will not be gained by me alone but by third parties who wish to exploit 'my' data? My answer is, "it depends". I'm more than happy for my data to be anonymised and used to aid forward progress or society in general. Examples include, location data to help city planners relieve congestion or usage trends to aid research and development so that consumers can be rewarded with better products. What I am definitely not cool with is my identity being revealed and my personal data being shared with the highest bidder. Quit hiding behind the small print that forces us to give up our rights to privacy - that's unethical and needs to stop!
If abuses of personal data such as this continue, I predict the gradual move towards the 'private cloud' will become a stampede! I also predict that consumers will be more careful about which gadgets they purchase based on the supplier's TOS. It shouldn't be that OEMs or app developers own our data 'lock-stock-and-barrel' by default, because who's data is it anyway? Well, in my opinion it should be ours!
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