Garmin Instinct Series
Review date: Nov. 9, 2022
These chonky outdoor focused smart watches come in regular, solar powered, a tactical version, a camo version, and even a surfing version. They don't have the fancy touch screens, but they do track all sorts of information about your sleep, stress, heart rate, hike, workout, and help you find your way home if you get lost in the woods. They are rugged and cool. I only say that because this is the smartwatch your favorite *Privacy Not Included reviewer owns and loves. Thanks Garmin for doing a good job keeping my health data all to yourself.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Here’s what this privacy researcher likes about Garmin. Yes, they do collect a good bit of personal information through the device and on the Garmin Connect app because that’s what a fitness tracking smartwatch does. They collect data like email address, device information, location, and all that body related data like physical activity, stress, sleep patterns, heat rate, pulse ox, and more. The good thing is, yes, they collect it, but they also seem to protect it.
Garmin also seems to do a pretty good job securing the personal information they collect. However, they did suffer that very public ransomware attack in 2020. Ransomware attacks suck and it seems no company is safe from them these days. Good news though, no user data was actually compromised in that attack, so, once more, good work Garmin.
Is your intrepid privacy researcher happy with her decision to get a Garmin fitness tracker? Yes, she is. Although it does make her a little nervous that she now leaves her phone's Bluetooth on all the time. But hey, knowing that body battery score is really cool! What’s the worst that could happen with your fun Garmin fitness tracking smartwatch? Well, hopefully nothing, but do beware if you link your data to other third party apps like Strava and MyFitnessPal. Those apps come with their own privacy policies and every time you share your personal information with someone else you increase the vulnerability of that personal information.
Tips to protect yourself
- Be very careful who you choose to share your Garmin wellness data with.
- Adjust your privacy settings in the Garmin Connect app to suit your comfort level.
- Don't connect your Garmin app to any social networks like Facebook, WeChat, etc.
- When you no longer use the app, go to "Delete account" in the app menu.
- Turn off precise location sharing!
- Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images and videos).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
Can it snoop on me?
What can be used to sign up?
WeChat, QQ, Google, and Apple log-ins available
What data does the company collect?
Name, email address, gender (optional), age (optional), date of birth (optional), photos (optional), location
Activity data, such as menstrual cycle information, steps, distance, pace, activity time, calories burned, heart rate, sleep, location, golf stats, etc.
You can add friends to see their activity data
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?
They did suffer that very public ransomware attack in 2020. No user data was compromised during this attack.
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Garmin has an easy to find list of all privacy policies. The privacy polices are relatively simple to read.
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Garmin devices and apps use a combination of asymmetric and symmetric encryption appropriate to the nature and function of the product, and data stored/transmitted.
In order to use companion apps, an account with a strong password is required.
Garmin uses Machine Learning (ML) to provide personalized insights to customers who wish to receive them as they pursue their fitness and wellness goals.
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
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