Security and Privacy Issues Surround Wearables

Carl Weinschenk
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Wearable technology raises a host of important security and privacy issues. The good news is that people seem aware of the issues and are starting to think seriously about them.

Last week, Datamation posted a story about a survey by Accenture digital marketing division Acquity Group. The results suggest strongly that people are concerned about privacy and wearables. And, as usual, they are willing to bend if properly rewarded:

Eighty percent of the 2,000 surveyed for the group's ‘2014 State of the Internet of Things Study’ expressed worries that wearable devices could infringe on their privacy. Predictably, that figure drops when they are otherwise incentivized. Half of those polled said that they could be coaxed into sharing personal data if they were treated to discounts and coupons.

According to the survey, about 53 percent are willing to share data with doctors. Far fewer will share data with friends or family. Almost 40 percent won’t share data with anybody. Acquity doesn’t think these concerns will slow the wearable train down much: It expects strong sales at the end of this year to push the total shipments of wearables during 2014 to 22 million, which is a 129 percent gain over the 9.7 million shipped last year.


There certainly is a lot to worry about. Mobile Commerce Press reports upon a study by Symantec that raises serious questions about the security of wearables. Indeed, users were tracked easily and inexpensively.

The device made by the researchers never attempted to make a connection with the specific wearables that were being tracked. This was not required because the data was collectable due to the sheer simplicity of the wearable tech, which communicates with more complex devices – such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops – in order to make its information usable to the wearer.

The issue of wearables at work is a different but deeply related issue to consumer use, especially in the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) era. EnterpriseAppsTech surveyed the security concerns wearables bring to the enterprise from the perspective of the employee and the employer. The best practice for employees sounds a lot like the advice given to consumers and for that matter, the counsel given for smartphone apps in general: Be aware of what permissions are being granted.

Writer James Bourne says that IT departments tend to have one of two reactions with wearables: Some pay little mind to the security of wearables and some are extremely strict. According to LANDesk director of product management Stephen Brown, there is little middle ground. IT departments that are on the stricter side have many options to buttress security, including not allowing the device to connect to networks that have access to classified information.

The security of wearables is a broad area, and Bitdefender is one of the vendors seeking to answer the call. Last week, it introduced what the company refers to as “iron-clad” security. The platform, according to TechDay, now includes WearON, which protects smart watches.

Almost all technology features good and bad that go hand-in-hand. Wearables can do much good: Tell a user, for instance, that he or she is dangerously close to a heart attack or provide data to first responders if that heart attack does occur. Likewise, a wearable can tell a criminal that a person isn’t home and the house is ripe for a break-in. Other, even more evil uses, are possible. Such challenges are simply part of the way we live today.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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