Wearable fitness trackers, like Fitbit, FuelBand and Jawbone, are immensely popular these days.
The device bands are designed to track calories burned by the wearers, heart rate, steps taken throughout the day, sleep patterns and overall activity measurements. But they can also be plagued by inaccurate readings and a vulnerability to hackers.
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“From allowing a user to accidentally post activity logs on social media showing the number of calories burned during sex to helping jealous types keep tabs on their significant others to permitting the owner to transmit false data about physical activity, wearable fitness devices such as Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, Polar Loop and Jawbone UP come with the potential for a number of unintended consequences,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
The information collected by the fitness tracking devices is at risk of being hacked when the device is transferring the data using a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone or other device, and again when the data is transferred to the cloud.
Simone Margaritelli, a software developer and security researcher for mobile security company Zimperium, explained to the Post-Gazette that although the data from the fitness band itself isn’t necessarily sensitive, hackers who tap into a device then have a backdoor into users’ laptops and smartphones, which come loaded with personal information.
German antivirus company AV-TEST found that 6 out of 9 of the top-selling fitness trackers in the world, which include the popular Fitbit Charge, are vulnerable to hackers, the Post-Gazette said.
Dan Nydick, technical director at Avere Systems in Pittsburgh, told the Post-Gazette that wearable fitness device users need to be careful with what information they provide to the device and only supply information that is essential to its operation.
“If someone knocked on your door and asked for your birthday, you probably wouldn’t just tell them,” he said. “It should be the same for your apps and devices.”
Another big problem with fitness tracking bands is this: they’re inaccurate, according to VentureBeat.
In fact, Nike and Apple recently agreed to pay $2.4 million to settle claims that the Nike+ FuelBand inaccurately tracked calories burned by its wearers, Quartz said. Although Nike and Apple denied the allegations, they opted to settle instead of shelling out for continued legal fees.
Nike is offering FuelBand owners a $15 cash refund or a $25 Nike gift card if they give up their rights to sue them later. Click here for more information about filing a claim with Nike.
A number of fitness trackers are made up of a piece of plastic, an inexpensive accelerometer, an app, and a handful of algorithms, VentureBeat said. Because of that, it’s likely that more lawsuits like the one against Nike and Apple will be filed as the fitness tracker market matures.