Google bought Fitbit. Ignoring the technology, what Google purchased was a massive stockpile of biological data that can be completely correlated with what was being typed. Or is that conspiracy thinking?
This is speculation, but that’s why I write here first, outside my actual research. Speculating:
If you have everything you type into a computer, some if not all mouse movement1, and every click, can you match that to heart rate? What can you tell about yourself? Everything you type includes everything you type then delete, almost post, don’t post, search for, modify, and then add your heart rate the entire time? Could you tell you were nervous about certain people, certain concepts, in certain situations? What if you can also correlate your online activity, what you looked for during the day to how you slept that night?
We can already do this, when we pay attention, without any technology. We know some things set us off. We know certain emails result in a lack of sleep. We know that searching for some things make us feel anxious, agitated. We know people close to us can tell when we’ve seen something disturbing, or had to fill out an upsetting form field.
How much of that will Google now know about Fitbit users? What will they do with that data? Serve ads? If they can make that work.
Are there laws against measuring a person’s heart rate as they move across the web? What about changing the ads they see based on that data?
Did users of Google and Fitbit already agree to this sort of data merger? If so, the previous data stored can now be joined: what you did online, everything you typed, and some of the factors you can tell by measuring a body: biological data meets Google Ads, in real time. It may have already been happening with data sharing between Fitbit and an ad network?
Consider Google on a smartphone with the Fitbit attached. Would a hack that results in capturing and manipulating Google data allow an attacker to attempt to upset you, as they watch incoming Fitbit data? (all day long, where-ever you are, using your phone and any app that shows ads?) What about news from Google? Could someone subtly manipulate you over days, changing things you see via every Google-delivered ad, measuring how it changes your sleep? Feeling restless?
Could Google be legally forced to act in this capacity? To what degree would they cooperate?
For me, writing about this particular merger is a way of exploring how biological data could be exploited. In terms of viability, Google Glass did not go so well and I’m not convinced Google understands the Fitbit market from a UxD perspective. (see Google+, Google Wave)
But I really had not thought about how rich a source of exploitable data Fitbit was until I thought about how much I’d like to see my own biological data related to what I write, who I am writing to, what I am writing about…
- which to some degree Google may have