Garmin Vivofit Jr.
An activity tracker designed for kids. What could go wrong? These wearables for kids come in cool designs from Marvel and Disney and have up to a year of battery life. They sure sound fun. That is, until kids learn parents can track not just steps, movement, and sleep but also CHORES! Garmin's Vivofit Jr connects to the Garmin Jr app via Bluetooth. The app lets parents track whether or not kids have done their chores, if they've moved for 60 minutes a day, if they actually went to sleep when they were supposed to and dole out rewards if they have. Now Mom and Dad can be Big Brother too! The good news is, Garmin is better at privacy than many of the other smartwatch for kids makers out there.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Here’s what this privacy researcher really likes about Garmin. Yes, they do collect a good bit of personal information through the device and on the Garmin Connect and Garmin Jr apps because that’s what a fitness tracking smartwatch does. It’s good to know parents aren’t required to use the real name of their child when setting up the apps. Still, two apps (Garmins says, "When you create your family profile in the Garmin Jr. app, your Garmin Connect name will be used as your admin name in the Garmin Jr. app.") is not exactly better than one, especially when it comes to data collection. These apps collect data like email address, device information, location, gender 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.
Garmin has been on our Best Of list for a number of years. And we're pleased to say, in 2023, it seems they've gotten even better (which is amazing when so many other companies are getting worse). We were very happy to see that the one gripe we had with Garmin in the past -- the fact that they didn't clearly state they grant all people, regardless of where they live and the privacy laws they live under, the same right to delete their data -- got fixed in 2023.
Garmin actually reached out to us about that and when we pointed out that they didn't clearly state that, they said they would take a look. And now we see this lovely line on their Data Protection Rights page, "Depending on where you reside, you may have rights under applicable laws, subject to conditions and restrictions provided in those laws. Regardless of where you reside, you can access, correct, export, or delete your personal data (including deleting your entire Garmin account) by visiting our Account Management Center." Great work Garmin! This is the kind of care about privacy for everyone, not just the people you're required to grant privacy rights to, that we LOVE to see. (Also, a note to toot our own horn a bit: This is what happen when we point out the issues we see to companies -- sometimes the good ones make change.)
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! And shoot, any smart watch that's good enough for the US Space Force is good enough for us (we joke, we joke!)
What’s the worst that could happen with your Garmin Vivofit Jr fitness tracking smartwatch for your kids? Well, hopefully nothing, but remember, nothing that connects to the internet is ever 100% safe and secure. Also, 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.
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?
What data does the company collect?
"Email address, name, and password; Child's name, photography, gender; Device location, text and voice messages sent through the device - if you give access."
Your child’s activity (such as chores, rewards, steps, distance, activity time, and sleep).
Other Garmin Jr. app users will be able to see your profile. Users who are not your Connections will be able to see the family name you choose in your profile, your admin name, the name of any additional parent or guardian you have added to your profile, and the number of children you have added to your profile. Users who are your Connections will be able to see the same information plus the names you have provided for your children in your profile.
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?
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.
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The Best Smartwatches For Kids (And Parents) To Stay ConnectedForbes
Thousands of Garmin Smartwatches Being Used to Test Space Force Fitness ProgramMilitary.com News
Smartwatch Privacy for Kids During the Coronavirus PandemicCommon Sense
Garmin’s New Aviator Watch Partly Addresses a Risk the War in Ukraine Is Highlighting – MicrotargetingForbes
The Garmin Hack Was a WarningWired
Ransomware attack on Garmin thought to be the work of 'Evil Corp'The Guardian
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