Thursday 8 December 2016

What you didn't know about your fitness tracker and your right to privacy

Published 22/09/2016 | 18:05

Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon
Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon

Smart electricity meters and wearable fitness trackers are failing Irish people’s privacy, according to a new report by the data protection regulator.

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Helen Dixon’s office will now “step up” audits of technology devices after a survey of 300 ‘internet of things’ devices found “alarming shortfalls in the management of personal data by developers and suppliers”.

The study also involved 25 other data protection authorities. It showed that three quarters of device manufacturers failed to explain how customers could delete their information. It also showed that two thirds of manufacturers failed to explain how information was stored, while three in five failed to explain how personal information would be collected and processed. Just over a third of manufacturers failed to include easily identifiable contact details if customers had privacy concerns.

In the Irish area of study, nine devices were investigated ranging from smart electricity meters to fitness trackers. The data regulator declined to name the manufacturers involved.

However, the office is considering action “against those who are found to be in breach of legislation”.

“The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is planning to scale up investigative and audit work in this area in 2017,” said John Rogers, the data watchdog’s senior investigations officer who coordinated the Irish sweep. “We have already begun to schedule audits of devices in the technology sector. The purpose of these audits will be to gauge compliance with the Data Protection Acts and to work with companies to ensure that their products are meeting the required standards.”

The sweep was coordinated by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network, an informal network of global data protection agencies.

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