One in Two Users Fears Personal Health Data Is Unsafe on Fitness Apps and Gadgets

More than 45% of wearable and mobile app users worry that hackers may steal their personal health information, according to a survey conducted by Healthline.

One in four users is concerned about data on a Fitbit or a health-tracking app. Of the 15% of consumers that own a Fitbit or similar activity tracker, more than 80 percent say the device keeps them motivated to stick to their exercise routine.

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According to Fitbit, the company collects data such as height, weight and gender, and uses it to personalize fitness stats (i.e. calories burned and distance traveled). “We don’t sell any data that could identify you. We only share data about you when it is necessary to provide the Fitbit Service, when the data is de-identified and aggregated, or when you direct us to share it,” the company’s privacy policy states.

Fitbit shares Personally Identifiable Information (PII) with companies that provide it services, such as order fulfillment, email management and credit card processing. These companies are obliged by contract to safeguard any PII. Company also provides PII if its employees believe disclosure is “reasonably necessary” to comply with a law, regulation, valid legal process, or governmental or regulatory request, or to protect the security or integrity of the Fitbit Service.

Fitbit says that, if data is shared with third parties, “it will do its best to provide users with notice in advance by email, unless we are prohibited by law from doing so.”

Fitbit may also share or sell aggregated, de-identified data that does not identify users, with partners and the public in a variety of ways, such as by providing research or reports about health and fitness. In this scenario, the company performs procedures so that the data does not identify users and contractually prohibits recipients of the data from re-identifying them back.

The Healthline survey also shows only 7% of survey respondents own an Apple Watch, but some 10% expressed concerns over security on the Apple Watch. Of those, more than 41 percent said they bought the device for health or fitness reasons.

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No smartwatch has two-step authentication security enabled, while some 30% are vulnerable to account harvesting, with attackers easily accessing their operating systems.

More than half of the respondents said they use at least one mobile health app. However, 43% said they have stopped using a health or fitness app within six months of starting it, due to security issues or lack of progress.

In 2014, more than 20 million consumers bought wearable tech units. This number is expected to grow to 150 million units in 2019. The 2015 Accenture Digital Consumer Survey shows that, by 2020, nearly half of consumers will own a connected IoT device, with the strongest demand for smartwatches and fitness devices, among others. As a result, the volume of data traffic across the network is set to explode. Devices such as Bitdefender Box are designed to scan home networks with connected devices and to provide real-time information, as a Time magazine review says.

The Healthline survey was conducted from June 17 to June 24, on 3,679 respondents, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5 percent.

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