By Kenneth Merrill
On Thursday, October 26, 2017, Internet Governance Lab Faculty Fellow and Director of AU’s Communication Studies Division Dr. Kathryn Montgomery will discuss the wide-ranging implications of Internet-connected health wearables at a conference organized by the Department of Health and Human Services. The presentation, titled “Health Wearables: Ensuring Privacy, Security, and Equity in an Emerging Internet-of-Things Environment,” draws on Dr. Montgomery’s research at the intersection of the Internet of Things and privacy, including an AU and Center for Digital Democracy study (funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), looking at the privacy and consumer protection concerns raised by the proliferation of health and fitness wearables, which consumers are increasingly using to track everything from their heart rates to sleep patterns and stress levels.
“Many of these devices are already being integrated into a growing Big Data digital health and marketing ecosystem, which is focused on gathering and monetizing personal and health data in order to influence consumer behavior,” the report explains. As the use of these devices becomes more widespread, and as their functionalities become increasingly sophisticated, “the extent and nature of data collection will be unprecedented.”
As Dr. Montgomery explains, “the connected-health system is still in an early, fluid stage of development,” adding, “there is an urgent need to build meaningful, effective, and enforceable safeguards into its foundation.”