Data protectionWearables and fitness apps show significant shortcomings in data protection

Today, the market watchdog team of the German consumer association in North Rhine-Westphalia published its study results on data protection for wearables and fitness apps. A total of 12 wearables and 24 fitness apps were subjected to a technical and legal analysis.

The market watchdogs gathered the following central findings:

  • Overall, it has been found to be difficult for consumers to control personal data when using wearables and fitness apps.
  • The majority of the studied apps send numerous and sensitive information, i.e. health data, to the servers of providers and also integrate third-party providers such as analytics or advertising services.
  • Only a few of the examined wearables are protected from unintentional tracking, which for instance also allows for creating motion profiles.
  • Users are often left in the dark about what happens with their data: Three providers publish their privacy statements merely in English. Six providers have the possibility to make changes in the privacy statements at any time without active consent of the users. Five providers even consider passing on personal data during a merger or takeover by another company.

Kai Vogel, head of health and care at the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv), commented on this: "Through the hardly manageable number of wearables and fitness apps on the market as well as other developing digital products, extremely sensitive health data can be disclosed by users and collected by the providers. The results of the market watchdog analysis are therefore to be evaluated all the more critical. (...) A possible remedy can be to create a public, national online platform that provides high-quality health information and independent assessments of digital products to better inform consumers."

Source: Consumer association NRW

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