The wearable tech has gained intensifying levels of acceptance from the consumer market. The tech is actually so promising that the dark side of wearables, which ranges from health risks to privacy to security issues, often goes unnoticed or unconsidered.
Though wearable technology is not a breakthrough in the tech landscape, we see a sudden surge in its popularity recently. This is because, the wearable applications that lie in the marketplace today have additional cool factors, like ‘smartness’ and ‘intelligence’ to flaunt. After years and years of experimentation, study, and advancement, the wearable tech has evolved to a sophistication level where it now uses the Internet-based connectivity. A myriad of IoT applications around wearables, ranging from infant monitors to breast implants to fitness trackers to smart shoes to socks and so much more lie in the tech space. Not just an accessory, wearables have advanced to give meaningful insights on what should or could be done to lead our lives more comfortably. However, while the wearable technology adds an additional layer of comfort and convenience to our life, at the same time, it poses potential dangers to our life too. Therefore, it only makes sense to identify this dark side of wearables, find ways to deal with it, and minimize the threats associated.
From mainframes to small-sized computers to laptops to tablets to smartphones and now to wearables, technology has indeed come a very long way. Industry behemoths are increasingly finding new ways to make the most of these technological applications, thereby leading to competition in the market. This has led to industries aggressively trying to gain an edge over their competitors. Thus, very little heed is paid to the dark side of this technology, which is why numerous challenges and concerns go hand-in-hand with it.
Envisioning the wearable tech as a great opportunity for opening the floodgates of multiple revenue streams is not enough. Customer’s skyrocketing expectations and innovation should both be intelligently coupled with technological assistance by keeping in mind the evil applications of technology. The new-age technologies prosper on data, which is why significant problems also are centered around data. Analysis, comprehension, and then fixation of the deep-rooted risks associated with the chosen technology will not only enable companies to stand out of the crowd but also to foster customer loyalty. However, now and then, we see news on data breaches popping up in the media. And so we can surely say that companies are not planning their cybersecurity defense mechanism appropriately. Same is the case with wearables. Forward-thinking sectors are taking the benefit of opportunities that wearables offer to improve business workflow, efficiency, and connectivity. Smart wearables sales are anticipated to double by the year 2022, thus having 233 million unit sales and becoming an industry of 27+ million dollars. Considering the stats, it is obvious that we will see the wearable tech become more pervasive in the coming years. With growth in the usage of wearables, there arise pressing concerns over privacy and security.
Smart wearable devices collect valuable data from our wrists, ankle, foot, and just so many other places. The wearable makers then store the collected information in a centralized storage system. Users, most of the times, are not aware of how these makers collect, store, and manage their data. On top of it, privacy policies are vague and incomprehensive. The policies actually state that the collected data will not be sold to anyone. However, it is also mentioned that they may share the data with third-parties or business partners to offer a compelling customer service experience. Now the question is how can we trust the third-parties? Third parties gaining access to our personal information can pose potential risks to our privacy. Besides this, our data is collected and stored by wearable companies. In their privacy policies, they state that they take care of our privacy. But, how do they really do it? Do they store our data in an encrypted form? Do they regularly monitor the data to check for its security?
Did you know that the U.S. Department of Defense ordered soldiers to not use wearable devices while heading to war-zones or overseas U.S. bases? This was because, due to the wearable devices soldier’s confidential location data was discovered. This news was itself a proof that wearables can pose dangerous security risks.
For example, you step out of your house wearing a fitness tracker that is connected to your smartphone. What if hackers gain access to your wearable device? Due to the geolocation capabilities, the evil actors can see where you travel, where you stay, or where you work. Besides, the hackers will also get information on your claimed insurance policies, as wearables and the insurance companies are related and clubbed nowadays. Now imagine, what if hackers use your location data to carry out identity frauds? Or what if they alter your fitness data, send them across to the insurance sector, and you face higher insurance rates? What if they steal the credit card details while you make payments for policies claimed? Well, these unscrupulous actors can pose risks or dangers you have never dreamt of.
In July 2018, a report by VPNMentor unveiled a shocking result when they tested the wearables for their security and privacy. One finding was on Modius headband, which is a weight loss wearable device. According to the report, the device could gain a user’s confidential data, right from their location to body fat details to other important information due to Facebook integration. Most importantly, as the device is connected via a smartphone or tablet, it requires the user’s fingerprint to open and access the app. This crucial and sensitive information can also be subjected to hacking, raising dangerous concerns for the biometric data of users.
While there is no definite study, but experts believe that wearables could pose serious health issues to consumers in the long run. The survey undertaken by the WHO panel on smartphone safety revealed that the devices could ‘possibly be carcinogenic.’ Referring to this study, a concern has been raised about the impact of wearables on human health. As these devices are worn on bodies almost all day long, experts claim that people, especially children, can be vulnerable to health issues.
As of now, the wearable tech offers a double-edged sword like potential, just like any other technology. But, the scenario will not always remain the same. Obviously, companies will come up with incredible ideas to take care of the dark side of wearables, as this trendy tech is here to stay and its benefits proudly outweigh the dangers.
Naveen is the Founder and CEO of Allerin, a software solutions provider that delivers innovative and agile solutions that enable to automate, inspire and impress. He is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience, with extensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment. He is currently working on Internet of Things solutions with Big Data Analytics. Naveen completed his programming qualifications in various Indian institutes.