Wearables and Unintended Results - Relatively Interesting

Wearables and Unintended Results

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Wearables, most notably Fitbits, have become all the rage. The Fitbit app topped Apple’s app chart on Christmas day and Amazon reported that the Fitbit Charge was one of the three most ordered items over the holidays. People have become crazy over these wearable fitness trackers, which track steps, stairs (up only), heart rates, and monitor sleep. But there appears to be some unexpected results from these wrist worn accountability devices.

For example, as depicted in the Tweet below, a man’s devastating heartbreak was captured by the device.

We can see the exact point where his heart figuratively and graphically sunk.

The fact that the Tweet went viral shows a lot for human empathy… or is it schadenfreude? It certainly depicts the unexpected level of knowledge these wearable devices display, down to the tragedy of our romances.

In a less tragic example, a New Yorker was confused by the strange activity on his wife’s Fitbit. He was alarmed, because it seemed like her resting heart rate was constantly high. Instead of an arrhythmia or tachycardia, it turns out that she was beating for two. Her heart rate and the heart rate of here yet-unknown baby were being detected and recorded by her Fitbit. The Fitbit inadvertently indicated she was pregnant before any doctor or pregnancy test. Surprise!

And on the cautionary side, the University of Chicago’s Health Informatics Program raises an interesting question about the information provided by the Fitbit: can consumers be confident their health information isn’t falling into the wrong hands? When we use our Fitbits, we upload intimate details about who we are, how we are and how much we do. These details can seem benign, but by virtue of their detail and their relationship to health, the question becomes, do wearables threaten our privacy? The healthcare industry goes to great lengths to protect your health information, so shouldn’t we as well?

The Fitbit is a clever device, that has a great purpose in helping us become more accountable for our activity levels, but like so many things released from Pandora’s box, there are implications that are hard to foresee. Although it might seem overly paranoid to concern ourselves about the privacy implications to a wearable device, it is important to continue the  discussion about our data and our privacy and the Fitbit provides the perfect segue.


Written by guest author Jerry Mooney