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Has IoT device overstayed its welcome?

Posted: 05 Dec 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Morgan Stanley? IoT? wearable? smartphone? tablet?

Then there's the small matter of privacy. It's beyond my comprehension why many of us are not yet up in arms about the lack of protection for the personal data collected by our IoT devices. For example, at this point, we have no idea if the data broker industry will ever get hold of our sensor data.

Call me paranoid, but here are a few data points we may want to keep in mind.

The Financial Times reported last summer on patents being pursued by BodyMedia, a wearable healthcare company that Jawbone bought in April 2013. The patents "relate to what the company calls 'lifeotypes' or unique profiles of individuals that combine real-time fitness data with other information such as health records, an individual's mood or online purchase history."

The scary part of this story is that it hints at a future in which wearable device vendors, database companies, or the data broker industry could create profiles combining our personal data, whether I'm diabetic, I'm pregnant, or I have high cholesterol, with fitness data. Such profiles "can be used for a variety of purposes from dating to predicting illness."

We should be aware that most data we store in mobile health apps is not covered by the privacy rules of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Meanwhile, the US Federal Trade Commission appears to be on the case. It believes that much of the fitness data is still highly sensitive. The agency is "keen on investigating how any consumer-generated data gathered is shared, exchanged and protected," Reuters reported. The FTC is seeking assurances from Apple that it will prevent sensitive health data collected by its upcoming smartwatch and other mobile devices from being used without owners' consent.

Unnamed experts told Reuters, "Apple is setting a strong precedent for health data privacy." Reportedly, Apple requires that users give consent before app developers are granted access to their health information. It also requires data logged by its smartwatch to be encrypted on the device.

The FTC's inquiry on personal data is hardly trivial. According to Reuters, the agency concluded in a recent study that developers of 12 mobile health and fitness apps were sharing user information with or selling it to 76 different parties such as advertisers.

It's important to note that Morgan Stanley isn't painting too rosy a picture for everything wearable. There are a few things the company listed as limitations to wearable adoption. "Wearables need to offer data accuracy, appealing design, ease of use and independence from smartphones."

I'm not too concerned about independence from smartphones. But I believe the report is prescient in saying, "It may be harder than expected to change consumer behaviour. Consumer adoption may also be constrained by device fatigue or limited willingness to share personal data."

Consumers aren't that stupid. After the novelty of wearing a wearable device wears off, I bet device fatigue will settle in. People might even decide that they don't want the whole neighbourhood, and corporate America, to know that they're underbrushing their molars.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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