Let's assume you are NOT a criminal, someone who has a GPS ankle monitor on because they aren't allowed to leave their house or other specific area. Maybe that's because they have just been released from jail or prison, are on probation or even waiting for an immigration hearing, I mean you wouldn't wear one just for the kick of it?
Moreover, if you were one of those people forced to wear an ankle monitor, would you feel ok about that device monitoring your every step, along with every other intimate and detailed biometric information about you? And then uploading this data to servers, and sharing it with 3rd parties? And the information collected doesn't just monitor your movements, but includes information about every person you chatted with, the time of the call, and everything else you did during the day.
As a person who falls into the categories mentioned earlier, you wouldn't feel comfortable if the ankle monitor you've received from a government or law enforcement collected this information, would you?
Yet, you might know someone, even yourself, who wears an Apple Watch, or Fitbit device. These devices collect exactly that information. The providers of these devices, regardless of whether it's Apple, Google or a.n.other 3rd party smartwatch developer/owner, are collecting information. The data, of course, enables future studies and predictions, and by applying artificial intelligence can predict your future movements, the things you like and give relevant information for your health. It might even give you the latest bitcoin price. And all the while all these smart devices are kicking back profits for the companies who sell them, the companies that collect metadata about you. This data and behavior prediction is where the real money is.
People who wear such devices might have gotten it for a reason, perhaps to monitor their heart rate, the steps they do, to motivate them to do more exercise and, yes, to maybe ensure they never miss a message. And rightfully, they pay a premium price for these devices. The problem is: the device is collecting way more about you than just your steps, it is analyzing way more than just that. The Apple Watch, for example, has health metrics like blood pressure, blood gluten levels, ECG data, your exact location at any time, even if you switch it off! This is a hell of a lot more than your parole officer would have. We can all have such devices, these 'luxury surveillance gadgets'.
It is, in effect, self-surveillance that people actually pay for! Sure, these gadgets have benefits, but consider for a moment who is behind them? Fitbit owned by Google, an advertising company, and Apple, which has received a lot of heat lately for the ideas of scanning iMessages, or pictures on iOS devices. Plus, let's face it, they are in the advertisement business themselves when they introduced "Privacy that is iPhone" to you. Let's not even go into NSO Pegasus, we know this information can be accessed by others.
The trick with such devices is the marketing, that people believe Apple and Google do not share your information, but just customize it for you and your health only. The smartest part of those smart surveillance devices is that you are willing to use them on yourself so you set them up with your iPhone or Android device and if you want really accurate data then you'll just turn on location services for good measure!
Let's compare again the person that is on parole and who has an enforced surveillance, a surveillance they would prefer not to have, utilizing a simple ankle monitor, if they are lucky, because the next generation of such devices is already developed. 'E-carceration' devices like the ShadowWatch has already arrived. This device combines Wi-Fi, GPS, nearby Bluetooth and other network technology to increase location accuracy. Also included are motion sensors, vibration alerts, messaging, and heart rate as well as blood pressure. This watch is sold by Offender Management Solutions, and are not free as the offenders are paying for them, making parole officers and correction officers perhaps the biggest customers for them!.
Yet, doesn't ShadowWatch not sound just a little like a smartwatch? Because that's precisely what your Fitbit or iWatch does. The accuracy is even better thanks to the syncing to your iPhone, which itself has sensors and technology to track every step you take. Just because it's sold as a luxury item, a pleasure for you to have on your wrist doesn't make it any less of a ShadowWatch.
People in the West are looking at China and wondering how the Chinese people can accept the state of permanent surveillance that exists there, but without realizing that in the West we're giving this information willingly. We might not have government score cards, but in the end all this metadata can get us better or worse health insurance, a better or worse job or no job at all. Combine all this with social media, and you have the perfect score taking machine. The Chinese Social System, the forced surveillance on some and the willing luxury surveillance might not be the same thing, yet they co-exist, ending up being used against us.
What does it say about our society to live in a world where we have “nothing to hide.” What does it say when some people feel opposed by governments looking at them 24/7, or an ankle monitor that is forced on someone, yet a luxury watch which does the same thing is just that, a luxury watch?
It is probably because we wear them willingly that we think it is acceptable, and we have nothing to hide, versus the people who are forced into surveillance who would ratter not wear such devices. Of course, there are the categories of privacy for advocates who just do not feel like wearing an ankle/wrist monitor.
Smart technology is great, and health information can save lives. So, not all smart tech is bad. Perhaps a lot can be adjusted for your personal needs, and your personal level of willingness to share information in the settings. It also might be necessary because you have a health condition and need such a device.
But you need to consider for yourself if you are willing to give up so much of your privacy vs getting this information with, say, open-source technology. Perhaps devices or apps that could do the same but are not linked to a 'cloud'. I will search for such solutions, as I know they are out there, and have them reviewed and covered in the Privacy Cookbook.
Stay safe, and perhaps consider a simpler watch next time you are looking for something to help you tell the time and nothing more!