Fitbits are invasive and creepy - a poll

Please vote your conscience, and add anecdotes or random commentary and jeers in the thread. I’m using “fitbit” like “google” or “kleenex” - any activity wearable or phone app you are aware of that is a background automatic tracker qualifies for my question.

(For the luddites and under-rock-dwellers who might like to vote, a fitbit is a wearable activity tracker: )

I do not see a poll.

I’m not personally a fan. I don’t consider them invasive or creepy, but don’t understand their appeal either. From my prior experiences on this board, many folk do strongly like them. Will be mildly interesting to see whether/how they participate in this thread, since I was pretty clearly informed in a previous thread that what I thought were honest questions and comments were not welcome.

Not sure if I’m a luddite, but nor am I someone who appreciates a gadget to do something I already am pretty capable of myself without such a device. And I’m not a huge fan of terribly detailed record-keeping of bodily functions/activities for the average person. I know if I slept well or not, or if I worked out well or was a lazy slug yesterday or over the past week.

I guess I can understand some unmotivated folk using such a device to nag them to be more active, but I personally do not need it. Another thing - I do not find interfaces with electronics intuitive, so I do not care for another device I need to learn/remember how to interact with.

Meh. I personally don’t like to have devices tracking my moment-by-moment activites and frankly think that the vast majority of users (even those who don’t actively try to cheat the device into thinking they are walking more than they really are) get little or no utility out of them, but on the scale of creepy intrustion of technology they’re at least an order of magnitude below obsessive use of social media (Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, and especially and particularly Twitter) to document every activity and passing interest to the world at large. Our supposed right to privacy isn’t being eroded; we’re actively taking sledgehammers to that wall in an effort to show the world how cool/interesting/pathetic/clueless we really are.

But then, I wear a mechanical watch, turn off Location Services on my phone unless I need an actual location-dependent appliation, and tend to disappear into the backcountry with no communications for days at a time. I am a part of this “24/7 connected society” to the least extent possible without being an actual hermit or doomsday prepper waiting for Kim Bauer to walk into my fallout shelter.


The poll took a minute - character limits are my personal bane, and I wanted to get the phrasing to where I was satisfied with it.

It is up now, or at least is up from my logged-in perspective.

Don’t know about fitbit, but calorie-logging apps like myfitnesspal seem like they could be exploited to be very invasive. A lot of ‘data’ gathered online about your lifestyle seems to be an exercise in bullshit, mostly. But an accurate look at what you’re eating each day, plus your exercise, is not that at all - very informative and exploitable data ISTM.

They’re extremely useful apps, though, if you’re trying to lose weight. Given that most (fat) people under-estimate how much they eat, an honest accounting is the obv starting point for any diet.

I get collecting info, but how do they distribute it?

How is FitBit distributing this data, and who else sees mine except me? And who could possibly care how many steps a day I walk?

I think you can share your data, but you have to do it on purpose. When I wore one, no one saw my info except my wife. Given that the data is as private as we want it to be, I don’t see “invasive or creepy” here.

I have one that I use solely for tracking my sleep, mainly so I can make a better informed decision about when to sleep, how much sleep to try and get, and whether the sleep I have achieved is enough for me to be fit to work for the night. It supplements but does not replace my own gut feelings on those things.

I don’t share any of the data.

Really enjoy hearing this from someone who is as involved in cutting edge tech as you. Reassuting to know it ain’t just us LAS-educated, lawyering dinosaurs! :wink:

So what is your watch? I wear an Ironman when exercising or gardening, but otherwise I have a 60s Semaster DeVille that was my dad’s, and an older rectangular Lord Elgin from my mom’s side of the family. I just really get a weird enjoyment out of winding a watch, and rarely have to be anywhere with digital precision.

I used to use a Fitbit, but I’m now using a Trio supplied by my health insurer. The Fitbit was a much better use experience, but the Trio allows me to accumulate daily rewards for activity that I can use against my insurance deductible. I’m fine with the data the Trio collects. My insurance company gets all of my medical data, they may as well get my activity data as well.

I also wear an Apple watch that tracks my activity data.

Honestly, I’d have to take a careful look at what data goes where, but in general I am cautious about what I store on the web. Even my online data backup (SpiderOak) promises me that if I lose my password, even they won’t be able to unencrypt my data for me, and that’s exactly the way I want it.

Like another poster, I have location services turned off on my phone; I enable it if I want map direction and then turn it back off when I’m done.

My concern isn’t just the information that a single source tracks, but what happens when multiple sources might be consolidated. My trivialized example is that you might not want to give out your whole birth date, but if you tell one site the year, one site the day and one site the month, a common owner of all three sites would just need a way to put them together to know the whole date of birth. Then you use the last four of your SSN at the bank website, let Google Maps know your home address… it’s probably a losing battle to protect all of my information, but I’m going to take a few simple steps to make it harder.

Fitbits are only as invasive as you make them. You’re free to give a fake name, fake birthdate, height, weight location, gender, etc. If you don’t want anyone knowing the information it collects, then don’t share your data. Don’t add friends to your Friends List. It’s not difficult to be anonymous with this thing.

The data might not be as private or secure as you believe it to be. See this article from detailing how companies may not be legally held to upholding privacy agreements. Note that they are precluded from selling “personally identifiable information” (e.g. your name, phone number, et cetera) but they can sell supposedly anonymous data. The problem with this is that this unattributed data may be able to be keyed back to individual patterns by sophisticated data science filters, especially as fitness tracking devices become more sophisticated, capturing GIS information, emotional states, linked to financial data (e.g. the ability to use a FitBit like device to make purchases, which is a logical next step), et cetera. This information could be made available to insurance companies, potential employers, et cetera, used to allow these organizations to access data that most consider to be private information. Here is an article from the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology addressing some of the legal and regulartory concerns of information from these devices. This is notwithstanding the often poor quality of these devices in reporting accurate fitness data. Although it would be hyperbolic to compare it to the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it is in the same spectrum of collecting information to market to and ultimately control the health habits of the public at large, and perhaps for less savory purposes as well.

For my role as an international espionage agent and counterinsurgency operator I wear an old Casio Pro-Trek Tough Solar watch, which has survived in the same time that multiple Suuntos have bitten the dust, and once saved my life by deflecting a .50 BMG AP round some misearble son-of-bitch Kazak sniper decided to throw my way. I picked the bullet up out of the dirt and threw it back at him with such force it knocked him right through a stone wall; minus one for the Mongols.

In mufti, my daily OWN is a Sinn 756 Diapal chronograph (using the ubiquitous Valjoux 7750) on a G10-style three buckle strap. It wears well, slips neatly under a cuff without making a fuss, holds time better than most quartz watches, and also can reflect sunlight focused to laser precision to cut my way out of villainous lairs. My grail is an original Sinn 140 with a Lemania 1341 movement (a cousin to the 142 “Space Chronograph”) but I’d snap up a recent production 140A with the in-house SZ01 modified movement if I found it at a good price, or the JAGDUHR 3rd Edition (unfortunately not imported to the US).


R U sure?

Its part of the growing trend of health insurance where if you want the “good” reasonably priced health insurance, you have to submit data that you are working out more and more each month.

Eventually, you’ll have to circle the earth like The Flash to make your ‘metrics’.

I mean with the general public. If the guys and gals at Fitbit HQ want to see my step count, I suppose they could.

Yeah, it sucks. I basically cost one prescription and one annual check-up, barring emergencies which could happen to anyone. I don’t plan to pursue any of the major treatments others do, like cancer treatment, etc. But eventually I will pay the full ride because I am not interested in participating in “wellness” activities. And I’ll be sharing the cost of all those folks who hurt themselves exercising.

I guess I can always go for catastophic coverage only and take my chances.

The “guys and gals at Fitbit HQ” are, for all intents and purposes, the general public. They could take your data, legally or otherwise, and provide it to any number of other parties, and you would have as little practical recourse as the NSA does with Edward Snowden.


I recently bought one because I often get caught up in my work and it reminds me every so often to get up and move. It’s crazy how quickly time can pass when you’re absorbed.

That said, I don’t find it invasive or creepy, at all. You feed it whatever information you prefer and exclude what you don’t feel like sharing. At least with mine, I don’t need to send that information to an app, but since I am generally curious about the information, I choose to do so.

Now if someone, somehow, snuck one onto my wrist and had secretly hacked my phone to forward the information, then that would be creepy-- but my generic usage? Not in the slightest. Like most humans, I walk around, climb some stairs and check the time and weather every so often.