Consumers Voice Privacy Concerns Over Fitness Wearables

Technology and the law have a bit of catching up to do. As fitness wearables begin being integrated into medical offices, more Americans and consumer advocates are becoming concerned over the privacy of their information.

Fitness wearables have enabled us to own our health. But despite the wealth of information they provide, medical officials have yet to take advantage of them, which may be a good thing. Forbe's Bruce Japsen reports that Americans are ready to embrace the fitness tech revolution, but a majority have concerns about how their medical data will be protected. The unfortunate truth is that the information transmitted by your device isn't just between you and your doctor—there are third-parties involved.

In this post-Snowden era, Americans want to know that some things are kept private, like their medical history--there's a reason why doctor-patient confidentiality exists after all. A report was filed today by PwC’s Health Research Institute after surveying 1,000 U.S. customers on their thoughts pertaining to fitness devices. It lists the top 10 health industry issues—two of which involve security and privacy worries. Almost 70 percent had concerns about their data being transmitted via smartphone and 78 percent took issue over the security of their medical data.

A "privacy nightmare," Deborah Peel, the Executive Director of Patient Privacy Rights, called it when she spoke to The Washington Post earlier this year. Consumer advocates share her concern and believe the government isn't doing enough to regulate this sensitive information. Especially, when you consider that manufacturers of these wearables can change their privacy policies any day of the week to say, “We may share information, including personally identifying information, with our affiliates ... to help provide, understand and improve our services." But it's not just the companies you have to worry about, it's hackers.

Fortunately, there's a glimmer of hope for securing your data. Lisa Vaas of Naked Security writes on a recently funded project to encrypt and secure your information from user to health provider. Professor Sanjay Jha, Director of the Cyber Security and Privacy Laboratory at the School of Computer Science and Engineering, believes:

"If healthcare professionals and medical insurers are to trust the data coming from wearable devices, they also need to be confident that the provenance, namely the context--the person, time and place associated with the data--is genuine, that the device integrity has not been compromised by malware, and that the data has not been tampered in transit or storage."

Perhaps more efforts, like these will crop up in the future, and with some help from lawmakers, perhaps consumers won't have to worry about their medical information falling into the wrong hands. Whether they may be a hacker or a marketing agency.

Read more at Forbes

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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