The Dark Side Of Wearable Tech Use
September 10, 2015 By Brent Anderson
Wearable technology or gadgets are a category of technological and state-of-the-art devices that can be worn by consumers to monitor and track information with regards to fitness and health. However, while wearable technology is known to have provided many benefits for consumers in the past, recent studies have shown there is a darker side to the technology as well. To understand more about this, let’s take a look at a few downsides of wearable tech use:
Enterprise Security Risks
Technology is ever changing. New gadgets are being introduced and with the inception of Android-powered smartwatches and Apple’s iWatch, it has recently been discovered wearable technology could pose risks for large organizations. In a perfect world, these watches (which are really small GPS-enabled computers) help users receive text notifications and calls on their wrist. But, the downside is these gadgets also have the ability to access enterprise data and applications. Enterprises will be required to regulate their security policies for dealing with employee use of smartwatches that could possibly reveal valuable information about a company.
Wearable Cams = Mass Surveillance
Wearable cams are generally used by the police to record video and audio of their interaction with people. They also capture the action around them and the cams can be clipped on an officer’s epaulette, helmet, collar or sunglasses. The key danger of this technology is the ability of law enforcement agencies to edit the collected videos for unfair use or mass surveillance. As a result, wearable cams may put more innocents in than the real criminals!
Vulnerable to Hacking Attacks
Many wearable devices, including pacemakers, insulin pumps, and glucose monitors, these days can be WIRELESS-ENABLED! As a result, this makes them vulnerable to hacking attacks. In 2011, a research by the Black Hat Security showed how attackers could possibly take control of an insulin pump located half a mile away! Therefore, this poses serious risks for the average Joe and Jane, as any person with cruel intentions could potentially hack an insulin pump to give a lethal dose to the user. Another research demonstrated how wireless protocols installed in pacemakers can be hacked by professionals to deliver a fatal 830-volt shock to any person wearing the device.
Serious Privacy Concerns
Smart eyewear, like Epson Moverio BT-200, Google Glass, and Vuzix M100, allow wearers to record and transmit images of the activities of people in their range of vision. As a result, in the future, these gadgets can be used in contact lenses and prescription glasses, making it difficult to spot them, hence posing serious privacy issues. When coupled with a facial recognition software, like FacialNetwork.com’s recently released NameTag application, “a user can simply glance at someone nearby and instantly see that person’s name, occupation and even visit their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter profiles in real-time,” according to the company. So, it isn’t hard to imagine the risks this technology could pose!
Invasion of Privacy
GPS-enabled, wearable cameras, like Autographers and Narrative Clip, enable users to virtually document every single moment of their lives and upload it to the device maker’s website. As a result, while the cameras do create a detailed journey of a person’s life, they also invade the privacy of others who are being recorded and photographed without their permission.
What steps are manufacturers taking to prevent these mishaps from happening? Well, there has been no news about that yet. But the fact remains there is a darker side to wearable tech you should be aware of to ensure your safety and privacy.
About Brent Anderson
I am a freelance tech writer based in Santa Cruz, California. I write primarily on Cloud computing, Big Data, and other trends in the world of technology, but I also write occasionally on politics and culture. I have a BA from UCLA and an MFA from the University of North Carolina.
From The Conversation
How we discovered the dark side of wearable fitness trackers
June 19, 2015
Rikke Duus Senior Teaching Fellow in Marketing at UCL
Mike Cooray Faculty, Strategy and Innovation at Ashridge Business School
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
You no longer have to look to science fiction to find the cyborg. We are all cyborgs now. Mobile phones, activity trackers, pacemakers, breast implants and even aspirins all act as biological, cognitive or social extensions and enhancements of our bodies and minds. Some have even predicted that human beings as we know them will be replaced by technically enhanced, god-like immortal beings within 200 years. Or at least rich people will.
The next generation of wearable technology is set to take us one step closer to this predicted future. We are now looking at a future of bionic, data-rich and in-body technologies that may forever change what it means to be human.
The company Athos plans to launch fitness clothes that measure muscle activity, heart rate and respiration in real time. Its marketing material encourages consumers to “upgrade” and become “the ideal version” of themselves. In doing so, Athos clearly reveals its transhumanist stance: the idea that technology will take our species to the next evolutionary stage.
Together with jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co, Google is developing clothing that interacts with your devices. With touch-sensitive surfaces, the garments will be able to monitor weight gain, understand your gestures, make phone calls and more.
Fitness and activity trackers as we know them may also soon be surpassed by biometric wristbands that can measure what is going on inside your body. Researchers at Echo Labs are currently working on a biometric band that can measure your oxygen, CO2, PH, hydration and blood pressure levels via optical signals.
Several initiatives are even underway to create implantable technologies, that could essentially augment human biology. Internal microchips and digital tattoos could replace smart wristbands, payment devices and the like in the next few years.
The question that is often not asked however is: “How do we feel about living with technology on (or in) our bodies 24/7?”
Always on, always on me
We recently conducted a study with 200 women who wore a Fitbit activity tracker. It revealed that most users embraced the devices as part of themselves and stopped treating it as an external technology. It was “always on, always on me” with 89% of participants wearing it almost constantly, only taking it off to recharge the battery.
We also found that the Fitbit was an active participant in the construction of everyday life. It had a profound impact on the women’s decision-making in terms of their diet, exercise and how they travelled from one place to another. Almost every participant took a longer route to increase the number of steps they took (91%) and amount of weekly exercise (95%) they did. Most increased their walking speed to reach their Fitbit targets faster (56%). We also saw a change in eating habits to more healthy food, smaller portion sizes and fewer takeaways (76%).
Most women in the study believed it was important to quantify their daily activities (88%) and checked their progress dashboard more than twice a day (84%). The chase was on to receive gratifying “hooray” and “champ” messages when a target was reached. One person even said: “I love my Fitbit Flex because it gives me a pat on the back every night.”
We were particular interested in finding out how women related to their Fitbit. For many, it was seen as a friend who helps them reach their targets (68%). Reaching the daily targets creates feelings of happiness (99%), self-satisfaction (100%), pride (98%) and motivation (98%). A good day where the targets were reached made them like Fitbit more (96%). Most (77%) would even go back home to fetch their Fitbit if they had left without it.
The darker side
But in analysing these findings, we also started to notice that the relationship is perhaps not as pure and unproblematic as first believed. The idea that technology is both liberating and oppressive, first articulated by philosopher Lewis Mumford in the 1930s, started to shine through. When we asked the women how they felt without their Fitbit, many reported feeling “naked” (45%) and that the activities they completed were wasted (43%). Some even felt less motivated to exercise (22%).
Perhaps more alarming, many felt under pressure to reach their daily targets (79%) and that their daily routines were controlled by Fitbit (59%). Add to this that almost 30% felt that Fitbit was an enemy and made them feel guilty, and suddenly this technology doesn’t seem so perfect.
Wearable technologies can have a positive impact on the way we lead our lives by giving us insight into ourselves and enabling us to interact in new ways. However, it is also clear that when we invite technology onto or into our bodies, we have to be willing to share everyday decision making. As wearables crunch our every move, we will increasingly be told what to do and how best to behave and communicate with others.
For now, we believe wearables can be our companions, but the early signs of a technology takeover are there, questioning the sustainability of the current relationship. Whether we want to or not, we are slowly, but steadily, transforming into a new human species. Enter: homo cyberneticus.
Image by money.cnn.com