Innovation can create new problems, and often even new industries. Two and half millennia after the invention of the wheel, we have traffic jams–made possible by the auto industry and Big Oil. That’s two industries right there. Fast food and high fructose corn syrup caused worldwide obesity, and gave rise to factory farming as well as the diet industry. (That’s two more!)
More recently, privacy has been a recurring issue when it comes to innovation, but it was a problem pre-Internet, as well.
Credit cards opened the door to overspending and account takeover as well as a host of privacy concerns around who gets to know your spending and bill-paying habits. Then there’s EZPass and FasTrak. Who doesn’t love automated toll roads? (Hint: People who don’t like being tracked.) The list is potentially endless, but no innovation has given rise to as many industries in the last fifty years than the Internet.
(Yep, the Internet is eligible to join the AARP this year!)
User privacy is an essential part of keeping your data and identity safe online; it’s something we talk about regularly on our podcast “What the Hack with Adam Levin.”
It’s no easy task to identify the 10 biggest Internet-related privacy failures masquerading as the next best thing since the World Wide Web, but here it goes.
#9 Health Trackers
We all know getting more exercise is important. Every additional step you take during the day can increase your lifespan and your happiness. A quick stretch during the workday not only helps keep the blood flowing, it can lead to greater productivity.
Good health doesn’t have to be hard. It just requires a lot of repetition and stick-to-it-iveness, and the best health tracking programs are great at that.
Wearable trackers and apps buzz and vibrate when it’s time to get a move on or sit up straight; they track your vital signs, keep tabs on your weight and provide an interface for logging your diet. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered for many of us, and doctors do indeed prescribe the use of these services to their patients.
Here’s the rub: That data is valuable to a wide range of data-driven industries. If you get in the habit of running a few miles a day, you’re probably an ideal target for an ad for running shoes. If you never seem to get up off the couch, a life insurance company would probably like to send some memes your way.
Data companies have done their utmost to get as many details about your lifestyle and habits as possible; providing them with a 24-7 running account of your biological processes gives them a sizable, and intimate, piece of the puzzle.
This reality might explain why Big Data buys information from menstrual cycle apps, Google just acquired FitBit, and you keep getting ads for Spanx.