Fitness Trackers Can Pose Privacy and Identity Theft Risks
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of Americans now regularly track their weight, diet or exercise activity.
The fast-growing way to do so is by using a fitness tracker. By the end of 2018, there will be 780 million wearable fitness tracking devices on the market.
As of last summer, I became one of those people. It’s a huge improvement over the notebook that I used to log everything into. Now, in addition to more easily tracking my physical activity and calorie intake, I can measure my heart rate. I can also compete against friends in activity challenges. My device even lets me set my morning alarm and lets me know how I slept during the night.
One day someone mentioned, “Now that you have all this information—who else has access to your data?” My thought was, who would care how many steps I took today and how often I woke up last night?
Yet this information can be valuable to companies looking to target potential consumers of everything from running shoes to diet foods to sleep aids. My device also stores my age, gender, height and weight. That data and more could be used by identity thieves to get a more complete picture of me.
And what about real-time, location-based tracking. If potential burglars got ahold of your data, they could learn where you live and when you’re away from your house, right?
A recent report from Symantec confirms that these risks are real. Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Here are five:
- Avoid using any unsecured networks. Public Wi-Fi networks put your personal data at risk.
- Use strong passwords. Helpful tips include using a mix of letters, numbers and symbols; using a password that’s different from the ones you use for your other accounts; avoiding passwords that contain personal or common words; and keeping passwords secure from any prying eyes.
- Disable location tracking. Turn off your Bluetooth when you’re not using it and refrain from using social sharing features to tell others where you are.
- Regularly check for and install updates to your device and its app. An update might contain important security fixes.
It’s still possible to fall prey to identity theft even after taking these precautions. That’s why it’s worth considering identity theft protection coverage. An insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent can tell you more about this affordable–and increasingly necessary–coverage.