Withings Body Scale
For those of us who don't live with a doctor, there's the Withings Body smart scales. They do everything from weigh you to measure your heart rate, water percentage, bone and muscle mass. It takes all that personal information and shares it with an app on your phone where you can set up personalized programs to keep your weight right where you want it. If you have the willpower, that is. Good news, Withings is pretty good at privacy, so not too many worries about them oversharing the fact that you've gained a few pounds.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Withings says that “[r]espect for privacy is a core principle that we place at the heart of our strategy for developing our Products and Services.” Better, they seem to sincerely mean it. They actually apply the European Union's stronger privacy regulation GDPR all over the world, even in places they don't have to apply strong privacy laws. That's so cool! If more companies could do this we'd be so happy.
We’re kinda speechless honestly since we usually use this space to air our grievances. Withings even created a handy guide about “How to manage and protect your Withings data.” This might be a first. It tells you about all of the health data that’s collected, how you can import more, how you can download it, delete it, and other helpful advice. It seems like Withings genuinely wants to put you in control of your health data which feels, sadly, super rare in the whole health-tracking space. Bravo, Withings! (They’re French.)
This is all great news for a device that knows how much you weigh, what your body fat percentage is, and how much water you are retaining. No one but you (or maybe your doctor) really needs to know all that.
Tips to protect yourself
- Check the comprehensive Privacy User guide to check all your options.
- 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 necessary)
- 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?
Name, surname(s), age, email address; in some cases your location. Optional: profile picture
Device and app data, such as bone mass, fat mass, heart rate, muscle mass, steps, room temperature, weight, body mass index, etc.
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?
Withings was heavily criticized in 2023 for presenting the new product: Withings’ U-Scan, an in-home, WiFi-connected urinalysis device meant to soon read one’s urine composition for health factors regarding pH balance, nutrition, and even users’ menstrual cycles.
The product earned the CES ‘Worst in Show 2023’ award in 'Privacy' nomination - from PIRG, JerryRigEverything, iFixit, Repair.org, EFF, Consumer Reports, and SecuRepairs.
“The U-Scan is a body surveillance device that indefinitely stores your private health data, including information about pregnancy and fertility,” writes Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director for the digital privacy rights advocacy group, Fight for the Future.On Withings’ legal policy page, the company notes that they “may be compelled by the law to disclose your personal data to some authorities or other third parties, such as the the law enforcement or legal authorities.”
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
You will need either WiFi or Bluetooth to use this device.
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
You access the device through the Withings HealthMate app, which requires a unique password.
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