This weekend’s earthquake near American Canyon has highlighted the risk of living in the Bay Area and also given us all insight to how people behave in today’s connected world.

The speed at which tweets started appearing of people sharing their experiences shows that many of us are sleeping with a connected device next to the bed that is the first thing we grab for when awoken in the middle of the night. Now though, our connected devices are no longer relegated to the nightstand, but instead are in bed with us.

After the quake, an interesting story emerged from Jawbone, the manufacturer of a fitness/sleep tracker UP. They have released data on the number of people that were woken by the earthquake based on location and the epicenter. The data is interesting, 93 percent of UP wearers in Napa, Sonoma, Vallejo and Fairfield woke up instantly, while just over half in the areas of San Francisco and Oakland. And 45 percent of those within 15 miles of the epicenter then remained awake for the remainder of the night. The data gives you some indication on the magnitude and effect the earthquake had on people.

jawbone

While the information is very interesting and offers fascinating insight into human behavior, it does also serve as a gentle reminder that as connect our lives to the Internet, that data takes on a life of its own.

I wonder if the users of fitness/sleep devices are aware that their data could be used for analysis such as this? While the data Jawbone shared was anonymous and pretty much harmless, it does make me think, what else is being collected? What other insights do they have into our daily lives?

Fitness/sleep trackers collect information about the user and most of it is of a very personal nature and includes name, gender, height, weight, date of birth and even what you eat and drink if you are logging this in the app. Now couple this with location data that is being collected and you may even be able to understand where people regularly work out or go to eat..

I use a fitness tracker and as a user I limit the sharing of my data, I have switched off the sharing through social media as I don’t think my friends and family really need to know how many steps I took today. But I do understand that many users bounce off their friends as motivation to do more exercise which is not a bad thing if that’s the way you get your motivation.

 

Checking privacy policies

It sounds boring but I would absolutely advise reading the privacy policy of a fitness tracker before purchasing/installing. It cannot hurt to be more informed about what you are agreeing to reveal about yourself and who you are happy to share that information with.

After all its your data, it should be up to you how it gets used.