Always wanted an Apple Watch for all the cool health tracking and smart watch features but don't have and iPhone. Fitbit made their new Sense health and fitness tracker for you. This busy little watch measures your heart with an ECG, your blood oxygen levels, your stress through your skin temperature and electrodermal activity, how well (or not well) you are sleeping, it tracks your menstrual cycle, and more. It'll also track you with GPS, count your steps and calories and active minutes. The Sense literally knows when you are sleeping and knows when you are awake and knows if you've been bad or good. Santa, we see you.
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” as part of the deal with global regulators when they bought Fitbit. This is good.
And Fitbit seems to do an OK job with privacy and security. It de-identifies the data it collects so it's (hopefully) not personally identifiable. We say hopefully because, depending on the kind of data, 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 is not good is what can happen with all this very personal health data if others aren't careful. A recent report showed 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, it could be vulnerable. And Fitbit partners with many third parties such as employers and insurance companies. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need the world to know my weight and where I live. That’s really dang creepy.
Tips to protect yourself
- Follow Fitbit's advice to keep your stats private
- Stop sharing friends' lists: Under “Friends” on your profile page, select Privacy Setting and then Private.
What can be used to sign up?
What data does the company collect?
Name, date of birth, gender, height, weight, photo (optional)
Heart rate, movement, sleep data, blood oxygen levels, menstrual cycle, and more
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?
Unfortunately, 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.
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
To create a Fitbit account, users are required to provide strong, complex, passwords during onboarding.
Fitbit has a bug bounty program, which means that anyone who finds a security issue and discloses it responsibly may get paid.
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