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Smartwatch makers slammed over user privacy

Report from Human Data Commons Foundation highlights “surprising” ways that data is collected and used.

Makers of smart watches and fitness trackers are not doing enough to protect their users’ privacy, it has been claimed.

A report from the Human Data Commons Foundation found brands could be overstepping the mark in the way that data is collected and shared.

The ‘Quantified Self Report Card’ reviewed the terms and privacy policies of 18 leading manufacturers of smart watches and fitness trackers.

It graded companies on legal rights, data collection and sharing, data access, and security.

The Report Card highlights the “surprising” ways companies use data collected about people using fitness trackers and smart watches.

It found many companies create marketing profiles of users by combining fitness data with information from social media and other sources.

Some partnered with insurance companies to share fitness data. And it found companies will share information with police in criminal investigations.

Greg McMullen, co-author of the report, said: “There are many review sites comparing features and what it’s like to use the fitness trackers and smart watches these companies make. We think it’s just as important to look at how the companies use your data.”

The Report Card ranked Apple in first place. “Apple is trying to make privacy a competitive advantage, and that’s good for their users,” said McMullen.

Suunto and TomTom tied for second in the Report Card, followed by Xiaomi, Huawei, and Withings.

Fitbit and Google’s Wear OS platform placed in the middle of the pack, while Samsung and Moov finished at the bottom of the class.

Both companies have “aggressive” data collection and sharing practices, and terms that limit users’ rights, the study claims.

The 2019 Report Card is the third annual report from the Human Data Commons Foundation, a Vancouver-based not-for-profit organisation.

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