As a fairly privacy-conscious person, some people might be surprised to hear how much I like recording data about myself. I have a few serious medical issues, so keeping on top of stats about my body and overall well-being is a great thing. Of course, I’m also a geek at heart and love data that can tell a story or paint a picture.
There are a wide variety of devices with sensors on board to record copious amounts of data about what is happening inside and around my body, and software to make sense of the data. That’s all fine and good. The problem I have is with the next step that many of the devices take, which is to sync that data with a cloud service, and then sell that data to third-parties.
It seems to me that as wearables and digital medical devices continue to proliferate, we need to only support and use ones that meet the following criteria:
- You should always have the ability to pause data recording (“incognito mode”). There are times when you really don’t want your gizmo recording your activity or generating any new data, and triggering that should be one or two taps away, max.
- The data it captures should be available in a standard format, that you can easily export. Data that only exists inside of a proprietary app with no way of pulling it into another application of your choice is designed to lock you into an ecosystem, and make your data something the company can sell for profit. Interoperability is absolutely critical.
- Data should be stored on-device, and only synchronized to severs when you give express permission. And that behavior should be auditable, so you can make sure that the vendors are staying honest about it (which is part of why I also think those devices should be running open source code).
As long as devices follow those rules, then I’m happy to wear them on my body, and the data they provide is invaluable.