Sharing fitness data – and why small print doesn’t always help big companies

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Sharing fitness data – and why small print doesn’t always help big companies

July 2nd, 2015, Blog
Zumba Class

The BBC is reporting how Vitality (formerly Pruhealth) has come under criticism for promoting an app owned by Facebook and not making this clear.

The smartphone app “Moves” which records activity was promoted by Vitality as a way of its customers demonstrating their exercise activity so as to qualify for rewards of free cinema tickets.

Moves was bought by Facebook in 2014 and buried halfway in its detailed privacy policy it says that it may share information including personal information with its group including Facebook.

After appearing not to be too concerned about this originally, Vitality has promised to make Facebook’s involvement clearer.

When Moves was bought by Facebook, it had said that it had no plans to comingle data with Facebook but that quickly altered within a couple of weeks.

So while Move’s privacy policy does say what it will do with the data, the people who read that (or its terms and conditions) are probably few and far between and certainly didn’t help prevent the media pick up privacy campaigners’ complaints about the lack of clarity.

The real question is do the bulk of the public really care (even if they say they do). Data protection legislation imposed by law makes data controllers explain how the data will be used. That results in longer and longer privacy policies that probably are rarely read.

People share private data all the time with Google, Facebook, Twitter, satellite navigation apps and so on without seeming to realise how it is being used. This sharing of data allows these companies to market their targeted advertising and so monetise their technology which in turns allows them to provide their apps without charge.

Fitness data is more sensitive than where you have lunch and may have far-reaching consequences. Wearable tech which is recording your activity and sending this to into the cloud can record whether you really do the activity that you tell your doctor or insurer that you do.

Not only is there the risk of the consequences of health data loss by companies a long way away but it may have effects such as on your life and medical insurance premiums.

Other technology already available extends this. Connected scales, blood pressure, oxygen and sugar monitors can already automatically record and upload their readings so your weight may not in the near future be as secret as it once was.

Prediction: there will be various incidents of data loss and unwanted consequences of people sharing their movement and health data with unintended and unwanted consequences some of which will result in bad publicity but the bulk of the population won’t care and will continue to share their data with their friends, social network companies and perhaps unwittingly with others.

A health insurer that was criticised for promoting a Facebook-owned app to its UK members has promised to make the social network’s involvement “clearer”.

Vitality had been attacked by privacy groups who said it was “shocking” that the Moves app’s ties to Facebook had not been made explicit by the insurer.

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