LAKE MARY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - There are new concerns for users of popular fitness trackers. Experts say the information stored by these devices could come back to bite you.
They are some of the trendiest accessories being used today. Many people love keeping up with their physical activity by wearing fitness trackers. "It tracks my steps, it tracks my calories, it tracks my sleep pattern. I love it!" said fitness tracker user Lolite Nimmons.
But, have you ever thought about all the ways that information can be used? Attorney Whitney Boan says you should. "If you're using one of these devices, everything you're doing is being monitored. Think about it, how much you're walking around, where you're going, where you've been, how much you're sleeping, what hours you're sleeping, when you're getting up, when you're moving at whatever pace you're moving. It's a lot of information to have out there," Boan said.
It's information that seems harmless. Who would want to know how long someone sleeps? But imagine all of this information is like pieces of a puzzle. You put it all together , and it paints a bigger picture of what you're doing, where you're going, and who you are. "That information, once it exists, it's available for the bad guys too -- if they can find a way to get it," said Boan.
And it's not just hackers who are cause for concern. Fitness trackers can record, not only your physical location, but also your heart rate. S o someone could figure out how active you are at a specific time.
It also knows when you're sleeping and when you're awake. The reality is, that information can be accessed for a myriad of reasons by police, attorneys, and even insurance companies as an eyewitness, that doesn't lie. "So, if it contradicts what you've said, you may defeat your claim to damages, and that's happened to some individuals already. That information's out there; it can be subpoenaed, it can be gotten," Boan said.
There are examples across the country. Here in Florida, a St. Petersburg woman is charged with making a false report after she claimed she was sexually assaulted in Pennsylvania. She said she was asleep most of the night in question, but police believe the steps recorded on her fitness device prove she was awake and staging the crime scene.
A Canadian attorney is trying to prove a personal injury case by using his client's fitness data. He wants to show her activity level is low for a person her age.
But, even if you're not involved in a court case, your recorded fitness info could still be used against you. Some companies provide fitness trackers to their employees, with incentives to stay in shape. "I could potentially see employers using this information against their employees, in terms of saying whatever you claim you're doing, it's not what you're doing. You're not really sick, you're not where you say you were when you took time off. You're giving a lot of information out, when you have something on your human body tracking what you're doing all the time, and you need to be careful about that," said Boan.
Something else to consider: a Canadian research organization released a report called "Every Step You Fake." They tested nine different types of fitness trackers and found eight of them could be tracked by hacking into the Bluetooth.The study found gaps between what fitness tracking companies say they do in their privacy policies and what actually happens with your personal data.
The researchers said it's a common practice used by retail stores trying to profile their customers.
FOX 35 reached out to every company named in the "Every Step You Fake" study and here were their responses:
Jawbone: "We do not rent, sell or otherwise share your individual, personal information with third parties, except as follows:
"With your consent. We use affiliated and unaffiliated service providers all over the world that help us deliver our service and run our business subject to confidentiality agreements. We share aggregated usage statistics that cannot be used to identify you individually.
"We may share your personal information for the purposes of a business deal (or negotiation of a business deal) involving sale or transfer of all or a part of our business or assets. These deals can include any merger, financing, acquisition, or bankruptcy transaction or proceeding.