US senator calls for FTC regulation of wearable data

We’ve talked a lot here about privacy for wearable electronics in the past few months, especially when it comes to fitness wearables and their often lax data security practices, but now it looks like we’re not the only ones. Senator Chuck Schumer has called for the Federal Trade Commission to introduce guidelines for companies looking to release wearable products on how they need to handle data protection.

This call to arms was released in a statement on Sunday, which described the current situation with wearable privacy as a “nightmare,” and called for the FTC to not only protect the wireless transmission of data, but to look at potential limitations for sharing biometric data with third parties, since it could have drastic impacts on a person’s insurance, employer or mortgage lender.

“Personal fitness bracelets and the data they collect on your health, sleep, and location, should be just that — personal,” he said (via Venturebeat). “The fact that private health data — rich enough to identify the user’s gait — is being gathered by applications like Fitbit and can then be sold to third-parties without the user’s consent is a true privacy nightmare.”

At the very least, Schumer wants wearable makers to have to tell customers – in plane English might you – that it is sharing their data with third parties. Ideally, he wants an option there for customers to be able to opt-out of any data gathering, which seems fair considering they paid for the hardware that’s tracking them. In the case of services like Facebook which are free to use, it’s a little more understandable to make money by selling user data and displaying adverts.

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Fitbit has already released a statement saying that it doesn’t do such a thing, but other wearable makers haven’t been so forthcoming.

There’s a growing consensus among many politicians, organisations and companies around the world, that secretive data collection is a practice that should no longer be allowed to continue. This isn’t much of a surprise however, as mid-last year we all learned that the entire world is under surveillance in some way or another, often times with US, British and many European citizens being lumped in with the worst kinds of criminals on the off-chance that they somehow associate with one another.

The FTC has pledged to look at several of these issues and has already conducted several studies on privacy issues within the wearable market.

 

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