Smartphones, smart watches and other devices now provide us with the opportunity to monitor our health and physical activity. From step counters to heart rate monitors, a phenomenal amount of data is collected every day by these state-of-the-art applications. But at what cost?
Not so confidential data
This is the question asked by a team of researchers at the University of Berkeley. With his collaborators, engineer Anil Aswani underlines that in the current state, the laws and regulations concerning the confidentiality of the data are not yet sufficient to protect the information concerning the health of an individual, when they are collected by these programs.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, it is indeed possible to identify individuals by simply observing the data recorded by their applications. ‘The results point to a serious problem. If you remove all the information that identifies you, it does not protect you as much as you think. Someone can go back and collect the pieces of the puzzle, with the right kind of information,’ warns Aswani.
Caution is required
‘I'm not saying we should get rid of these devices, but we have to be particularly cautious about how we use this data, we need to protect the information,’ he adds. Although the study focused specifically on step counters, many other applications that collect data ranging from heart rate to diet could also pose a major privacy problem.
According to Aswani, artificial intelligence will continue to progress and the temptation will be greater for companies to collect this data to resell to the highest bidder, or use it to set up targeted advertising. This information could also be passed on to insurance companies, who would then be able to vary their prices according to the individuals and their state of health. The law must therefore move quickly.
Check out the video above to find out more about this worrying news...