It is safe to say that few technologies have changed personal fitness more than portable fitness trackers. These devices collect data for in-depth tracking of many different training parameters for coaching, analysis, registration and other purposes. But with all that data, how do you know for sure that your privacy will not fly out the window?
What information is collected?
The first key to securing data from a tracking device is to understand exactly what is in that data. The capabilities of wrist-worn trackers vary widely, from simple step counting and measuring basic activity to tracking advanced human performance data such as VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) and time spent in specific heart rate zones.
More performance parameters require more sensors and more sensors generate more data, which means that more sensitive information must be protected. Although your heart rate without identifying information would probably not mean much to someone who saw it, a wearable that tracks your running routes could provide information that is of great importance to stalkers or attackers. Other data, such as following the menstrual cycle on some devices, may allow a significant privacy violation.
The next key is knowing where the data is stored that your tracker collects. In older, very simple devices, such as pedometers or heart rate monitors, it just stays on the wearable itself. If this is the case, security is simple: know where your tracker is.
However, it is more likely that you are using a fitness band or smartwatch, in which case you are likely to connect to an external app for tracking, sharing, analyzing and / or coaching activities. That means that your data is now out of your hands and the word & # 39; trust & # 39; becomes very important.
If trust is not enough for you, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself when using a fitness tracker.
Read the user agreement
When you sign up for one of these services, whether provided by the device supplier or a third party, you will see a user agreement. Before signing any of these documents, you must read it. You will discover all sorts of interesting things, such as how much data the company collects from your wearable (and possibly your phone), what it can do with that data, how long it can keep the information, and whether you can get it back. (It also doesn't hurt to see if there is an arbitration clause for which you want to unsubscribe.)
If one of the clauses in that agreement gives you a break, that is exactly what you need to do: break. Determine whether the information and advice you receive is worthwhile to rely on the security of your personal information for the service. You can make the decision, but you can make an informed decision.
Limit the data that is collected
All too often apps and devices collect much more data than is necessary. If possible, have them only collect and store the data that is required to give you the feedback you want. For example, if you want to count your steps and heart rate but are not really interested in your sleeping habits, turn off the sleep tracker.
Also regularly check whether your apps have not expanded their data footprint. For example, if you want pace, cadence, and speed information, it is very unlikely that this will come from your phone's microphone. If the connecting app requests that access, simply say & # 39; no & # 39 ;.
Set two-factor authentication
Currently, two-factor authentication or 2FA is one of the best ways to secure your accounts – including your fitness tracking apps. A code is generated and sent to a trusted device (such as your phone) and you enter the code to verify your identity. Different 2FA systems are currently available. For example, if you use an Apple Watch, you can use 2FA via iCloud. Check to see which systems work with your fitness tracker. The extra security is worth it.
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