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As smartwatches gain traction, personal data privacy worries mount

Matt Hamblen | May 27, 2015
Companies could use wearables to track employees' fitness, or even their whereabouts.

"As we've seen through history, consumers are willing to sacrifice some level of privacy for a benefit. It's what has driven the Web through advertising and social media," Moorhead said. "I believe that consumers will get more savvy with their privacy, which could spell trouble for Google, Facebook and Amazon, who thrive on this kind of data."

As far as the U.S. government's ability to regulate uses of private data from smartwatches or other smart devices, there hasn't been much of a call to action, EPIC and others said.

In Germany, laws prevent a vendor from selling PII to a third party, unless the data has been completely anonymized, Zimmerman noted. "In the U.S., there is no federal law really, there's only a patchwork of laws. In general, you can do in the U.S. what is not allowed in Germany to sell this kind of data."

When smartwatch users expose their health data, financial transactions, location and other data to the cloud, "they should expect that the data is no longer their own and will be shared, mined and repurposed," warned Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

"Consumers are leery of the lack of privacy and very much should be," Gold said. "Users should expect any app or cloud access to be less than private in the future if they want to get services, especially free services."


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