Wearable devices, also called wearable technology or wearable tech, can be worn as clothing or accessories, such as smart watches, fitness bands and trackers, and medical devices.

Woman wearing apple watchWearables have computer functions and often link to apps on computers, tablets or smartphones. Many have sensors to collect physical and biological information, as well as allowing location tracking, which may be used to map the places you have been while doing your exercise routine.

The most popular wearable devices are smartwatches, fitness bands and trackers.

Emerging wearable technologies include:

  • digital glasses
  • GPS-enabled cameras
  • clothing, including headbands and caps
  • rings and bracelets
  • hearing aids, contact lenses and other health-related devices.

Some wearable devices embedded in jewellery and clothing often cannot be detected by others.

What are the risks of wearable devices?

Many wearable devices are linked to apps which collect data that you can use to track aspects of your day-to-day life: the number of steps taken, your heart rate or sleeping patterns, and so on.

Some apps collect information for marketing purposes, and you may agree to this when you agree to the app’s terms and conditions.

Data collected and stored in the cloud may not be stored securely: it could be stolen or sold to third parties.
Losing a device can allow third-party access to any information stored on the device, and the devices themselves may be vulnerable to hacking.

The biggest risk is over-sharing information. Most fitness trackers and smart watches allow users to link with friends, giving them access to sleep patterns, exercise times and locations, and other health information. Should an uninvited person link to you, they’ll have access to information about your activity routines. This can be a particular risk in some circumstance, for example, if you’re worried about an ex getting access to this information.

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How to use fitness trackers safely

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What can I do about the risks?

Follow these simple steps to limit the risks that might stem from using wearable devices.

  • Make sure that your device is only paired via Bluetooth with another device you are aware of and can control.
  • Manage your device even when it is not use: store it in a safe spot whenever you take it off.
  • Only link data about your personal challenges and exercise habits with your trusted friends.
  • Some devices allow you to be very specific and choose what information you share with each of your friends. This means you can choose to share different information with different friends.
  • Many devices allow you to collect different types of personal data: make good and informed choices about what personal information you want to collect.
  • Do you use a company-provided wearable device? Ask your company what information they collect from employees – some companies require access to employee’s devices so that they can track work locations.
  • Always use a strong password for your apps and devices that read your information.

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