Fitbit Ace 3
Motivating kids to move has gone high tech with Fitbit's Ace 3 for kids, a fitness tracker targeted at the 6 and up crowd. This little wristband comes with activity and sleep tracking, 8-days of battery life, and a way for kids to customize the face. Parents get parental controls where they can track their kids activity and approve connections with friends, set-up goals and rewards for activity, and encourage competition between their siblings. Gone are the days of Dad yelling at you to get off your lazy butt and go outside or Mom telling you to go to bed! Now there's a device for that.
How does this fitness tracker for kids do when it comes to privacy? Well, it's a fitness tracker for kids, so, there's that. But, Fitbit and Google aren't terrible at privacy exactly. So, there's also that.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
As of January 14, 2021, Google officially became the owner of Fitbit. That worried many privacy conscious users. However, Google promised that “Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won't be used for Google ads and this data will be kept separate from other Google ad data” for at least 10 years as part of the deal with global regulators. However, Fitbit and Google announced in 2022 that a Google account will be required for some uses of Fitbit starting in 2023. And in 2025, Google accounts will likely be required to use a Fitbit, indicating Google has plans to bring Fitbit users into the Google ecosystem as much as they can.
What’s this mean? As a parent, you must create a Fitbit account (or soon, a Google account) and then from there create a family account where you will create an account for your kid to use the Fitbit Ace. And remember, Fitbit can collect a good amount of data, as most fitness trackers do. They say they collect things such as name, date of birth, gender, height, and weight of your child if you choose to provide it as well as body related data like steps, activity, sleep, and more. Fitbit also says they can collect data on things like IP addresses, app and mobile device information (including cookie and application identifiers) when your kid accesses their account. Fitbit does say they limit some of the sharing of personal information of your kids with the limited connections you set up for them in the app. However, they do say they can share some personal information of your child for things like external processes through business affiliates and service providers and if their business is sold.
And remember, all this applies to children up to the age of 13. Once your child turns 13 (or the eligible age for kids in your country), then Fitbit says your child will be eligible to independently manage their own account if they choose, and you as a parent will no longer have access or control over it through your Fitibt account.
Also remember, Fitbit can collect data from third parties social media sites like Facebook and Google on your main Fitibit account if you choose to connect them (please, don’t) and from employers and insurance companies if you choose to share to receive wellness benefits or discounted or free services (again, not a good idea).
Fitbit also says it can share non-personal information that has been de-identified or aggregated. This is pretty common, but still, can be a bit of a concern as it’s been found to be pretty easy to de-anonymize these data sets and track down an individual’s patterns, especially with location data. So, be aware with Fitbit--or any fitness tracker--you are strapping on a device that tracks your location, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. That's a lot of personal information gathered in one place.
What’s the worst that could happen with a Fitbit and all the personal and health related data it can collect? Well, in 2021 it was reported that health data for over 61 million fitness tracker users, including both Fitbit and Apple, was exposed when a third-party company that allowed users to sync their health data from their fitness trackers did not secure the data properly. Personal information such as names, birthdates, weight, height, gender, and geographical location for Fitbit and other fitness-tracker users was left exposed because the company didn't password protect or encrypt their database. This is a great reminder that yes, while Fitbit might do a good job with their own security, anytime you sync or share that data with anyone else including third party apps, your employer, or a insurance company, it could be vulnerable. And with your children’s data, well, that’s something you probably don’t want to get in the hands of anyone else. No one needs to know your kid’s sleeping patterns..
One final consideration. This device tracks the activity and sleep of a child. Parents should ask themselves, is this information something I want gathered and potentially accessible to others if there were a data leak or security vulnerability? Also, we think there is a good question to be raised about teaching young children that this level of digital surveillance in their lives is OK. Maybe we should track kids a little bit less, and teach them constant surveillance isn’t a good thing?
Tips to protect yourself
- Parents, keep a sharp eye on parent controls and permissions.
- Do not sign up with third-party accounts. Better just log in with email and strong password.
- Chose a strong password! You may use a password control tool like 1Password, KeePass etc
- Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images, location unless neccessary)
- Keep your app regularly updated
- Limit ad tracking via your device (eg on iPhone go to Privacy -> Advertising -> Limit ad tracking) and biggest ad networks (for Google, go to Google account and turn off ad personalization)
- Request your data be deleted once you stop using the app. Simply deleting an app from your device usually does not erase your personal data.
- When starting a sign-up, do not agree to tracking of your data if possible.
What can be used to sign up?
Parents must set up a family account for their children. According to Google, a Google account will be required for some uses of Fitbit starting in 2023, with all users likely needing Google accounts to use Fitbit in 2025. "In 2023 we plan to launch Google accounts on Fitbit, which will enable use of Fitbit with a Google account. After the date of this launch, some uses of Fitbit will require a Google account"
What data does the company collect?
Name, date of birth, gender
Height, weight, steps, active minutes, and hours of sleep.
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
In 2021 Fitbit's security measures did not prevent the major data leak of 61 million fitness tracker data records, including Fitbit user data, by the third-party company GetHealth. In September 2021, a group of security researchers discovered GetHealth had an unsecured database containing over 61 million records related to wearable technology and fitness services. GetHealth accessed health data belonging to wearable device users around the world and leaked it in an non-password protected, unencrypted database. The list contained names, birthdates, weight, height, gender, and geographical location, as well as other medical data, such as blood pressure.
In 2020, it was reported that the emails and passwords of nearly 2 million Fitbit users were leaked online.
Child Privacy Information
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User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
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