Embarrassingly (and scarily enough), I don’t just consider my mobile device a best friend; I consider it a secretary, personal shopper, keeper of all of my secrets, and tracker of all of my health data. My AppleWatch supplements my mobile device’s Health profile by providing additional biometric data that I don’t even think about (heart rate, calories burned, sleeping habits, etc.).
Earlier this year, Aetna, “an American managed health care company that sells traditional and consumer directed health care insurance and related services,” introduced their Attain program, in which employees are incentivized to meet their personalized fitness and wellness goals by receiving a “free AppleWatch.” If an employee accomplishes their health goals on the AppleWatch, they can, over the course of 24 months, “pay” for the cost of their AppleWatch. If an employee does not meet their health goals for that month, they would be charged a certain amount.
Though I’m certainly not familiar with the ins and outs of the program, one can’t help but wonder about the internal agreements that have been made between Apple and Aetna. While this information is assuredly outlined somewhere (most likely typed up in super-small font, at the end of a lengthy, legal-jargon filled document), it’s doubtful that the employees who are receiving the “free” AppleWatch have been made aware of the data that’s being collected and exchanged. As big data author and strategist, Dr. Mark van Rijmenam, states, “In the world of big data, nothing is free.” So what kind of personal information are employees “paying” Apple and Aetna with?
Some may not necessarily be intimidated in knowing that brands and businesses are able to glean their personal information, shopping patterns, interests and habits. After all, it’s difficult to see the harm in having items that one likes being marketed to them. However, what should be intimidating are the lack of guidelines. Although pharmaceutical marketing is currently federally regulated, it’s easy to surmise how “weaknesses and loopholes in the law have enabled the industry to engage in robust advertising and promotion efforts.”
The “global wearable healthcare/medical devices market is expected to reach USD 27.49 billion by 2026.” If a mobile device (cell phones, voice assistants, etc.) is able to collect and communicate data that one is aware of to a brand, what kind of data can a wearable device collect and communicate without someone’s awareness? More unnerving still, what kind of things could be marketed to someone based on data that they can’t control?