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Looking for the worm in the Apple Watch?

Posted by on March 10, 2015.

Apple watch has been officially presented. As a sophisticated gadget that is highly desirable. Much more aesthetic than google glasses, Kashmir Hill describes its functionalities and privacy concerns. We know that the FTC is said to have had discussions over the privacy issues of the device. we are said that Apple will not retain data and not passed them on any third party. That is good news. However, we know less about third party App developers.

Why would this matter? With regard to the EU Data Protection Directive, health data are considered as sensitive private information to handle with great caution.

Sensitive information can be extracted from the collected data as well as deduced when combined by external information. Your pulse reveal your health, one big information your employee would love to access. It also tells your life habits, when you wake up, when you sleep, when you watch movie, when and how long you eat, not mentioning your sexual activities.

No way pretending you are taking sick days to rest if your watch can tell your heart bits are not really the one of someone resting.

These health data are combined with other tracking data including the sensitive geolocation tracking. Geolocation reveals where you have been, eventually what kind of activities you usually practice. Even your religious and political believes can be determined by the kind of churches or institutions you attend. Do you remember the outcry of the German Politician Malte Spitz from the Green Patry tracked on all his moves?

We know how insurance companies offer reduced policy to the drivers consenting to instal a tracking box. There is already the iris scan or the chip under the skin to identify individuals. Could we see employers “offering” smart watches to their employees to be contactable and Trackable at all time? How much employees could feel free to give their consent?

Apple has assured having met and worked with data protection authorities with privacy on mind. So maybe we could trust Apple Watch.

What about the security of the data? Is the watch hackable?

Yes, there is always an inherent part of risk with any device. It should be up to the user to balance his needs and specific personal circumstances to decide.

What consumer can expect from Apple is to have their interest in mind to offer the maximum security. To make sure no third party could have access to the data without informed consent of the user. To make sure the data is accurate and not kept longer than necessary.

Few recent research studies have shown the lack of reliability of anononymisation.

If all these requirements were followed the data analytics generated could have great positive impact on scientific research. Monitoring body temperature, glucose reader or blood tension.

Google before Apple has been tracking health pandemic using its users search data.

Would users remember how much the watch is becoming ‘personal’ ? This is a cultural issue. Anyone accessing the watch will learn so much about its owner. This is the way all our devices are going.
What happens once the owner is dead?

How law enforcement could access the data? The questions of warrant, password access, etc….
App developers will continue to need approval from Apple, a difference with Android devices. Despite the approval, the question of security of Apps accessing personal data is not new.

All comes down to users education, to the clarification of the terms of use using less legal jargon and maybe plain language or food label kind of information.
Data should not be kept longer than expected with transparency to get an informed consent.

Ultimately, The Apple watch security and privacy analysis should take account of the aggregation of sparse data. Data collected by the Apple watch are combined to data from numerous Apple devices, such as the iPad to the iPod, the iPhone, the MacBook, the Apple TV or iMac and soon to come apple car.
That raises the question of omniveillance and it’s chilling effect on freedom of speech.

Before you adopt an Apple medical surveillance, ResearchKit, remember no more lie to your doctor or health insurance. You will not be able to pretend you had a rest while dancing all night.

Always keep in mind no electronic device is foolproof. Consider The danger of over reliance on technology.

Ps : I use Pearltrees App to aggregate my sources of informations. You might be directed to upload their App if you are reading this article on a mobile device. This is application is free to download. If you don’t wish to download the Pearltrees App, you should be able to access my links from a desktop or Googling the link. Feel free to contact me if you have any issue.

10th March 2015


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Submitted in: News_privacy, News_surveillance, News_vulnerabilities, Security, Tara Taubman-Barissian | Tags: , , , , ,