I was both saddened and amused to read that FitBit, an activity tracking device that monitors your level of exertion during your daily activities, has emerged as a tell-tale device as well. NFL correspondent Jane Slater tweeted:
We can laugh, of course, but it's yet another reflection of how personal privacy has almost disappeared with the advent of ubiquitous consumer electronics. Consider these facts:
- If you buy a modern CPAP device, information on your sleep habits (including date and time of sleep sessions, the level of sleep, etc.) is automatically passed to a central monitoring service, where the details are recorded - basically forever. The service claims it's to monitor your health, but if someone wanted to prove you were sleeping when you should have been (or claimed to be) doing something else, the evidence is right there. Only if you disable that data transmission can you regain that privacy - and some providers won't allow you to disable it.
- If there's an unexplained vehicle accident, law enforcement can now get information from cellphone service providers about any and every device that was in the area of the accident before, during and after it. Whether or not you were involved, even if you have location services turned off on your phone, mobile phone tracking can pinpoint every single cellular device that was there at the time. If you were just an innocent passerby, the technology doesn't know that - so your name, and contact information (from your cellphone provider's records) are going to be passed to police without so much as a "by your leave". Those records can also be obtained by lawyers during divorce or other civil proceedings, to prove their case.
- Military security has also been impacted by FitBit and similar devices.
There's only one way to avoid such intrusions, and that is not to carry any device that can be tracked, or that reports and/or records your activities. I try to do this with my cellphone from time to time, because I don't want to be tethered to it 24/7/365, constantly at its beck and call. I'd rather leave it at home. I've also disconnected the communications device on my CPAP machine, and informed its supplier that I've done so, so that they don't keep trying to have me bring in the machine to "repair the defect". My sleep habits are none of their business!
Sadly, very few people appear concerned about this level of electronic intrusion into their privacy. I'm obviously among a dying breed who regard personal privacy as a sacrosanct right. The rest of the world, particularly the commercial world, clearly does not.