Step by step, fitness trackers keep up with our every move, and in some cases, our sleep, our heart rate, blood pressure, and more. Wearing them not only might help you get in better shape, but also might earn you an extra couple dollars, if your employer or insurance company is among those incentivizing your wellness.
“They'll either offer you a decreased rate, or they will offer you money in a federal savings account, or along those lines, so some sort of discount in order to help offset costs,” says Dr. Andrew Boyd, an Associate Professor of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago.
The plans are typically voluntary and offer free or discounted wearable devices.
But Dr. Boyd says you should step carefully before agreeing to share this info. He explains, “This data can reveal more information about you than many people realize. Your heart rate data sounds innocuous, but it's actually quite revealing.”
He says it’s important to find out what information is being shared and how it will be used.
The fear is it may lead to a rate hike, or tell them you’re not worth the risk of insuring in the future, especially if current health care laws are repealed.
Dr. Boyd explains, “It's being used to promote wellness. Great. But, how do we prevent future insurance companies, future health companies, or future employers from using it to discriminate against you? There isn't a specific protection yet to limit this technology.”
Meantime, the data is already being used in criminal cases and police investigations. Dr. Boyd says we don’t know how the data will be used in the future. So, he suggests asking yourself if the company offering the incentive is one you would trust with your personal information down the road.
“There are lots of honorable companies who will use the data exactly as promised, but sometimes, some companies don't,” explains Dr. Boyd.
FItbit says the company makes it clear to users they are in control of their data at all times. Users can deny access to their information if they decide they no longer want to share it with their employer.