By Caleb Keith –
Today’s topic is something that’s been on my mind in the past but jumped back to the front of my head when I read an article on Buzz Feed yesterday called “Who Owns Your Steps.” This story highlighted the trouble users of fitness trackers have getting their biometric data from the device and down onto a spreadsheet for their own personal use. In some cases fitness companies would even charge users an extra fee for exporting data from outside an app or website. The frustration for many users is the realization that by using a simple piece of hardware and some software, they have paid to give away their personal data and have it owned and managed by a corporation. These problems go much farther than step counters, which begs the question “Who Owns You?”
Technology companies can keep track of nearly everything you do on the Internet or within the software you use daily. For instance, Facebook is often under fire for selling the personal data of its users. Google keeps tabs on what websites you visit to push more accurate ads your way. Beyond web traffic, fingerprint scanners on phones and laptops along with other biometric data pose a different problem. Companies like Apple and Google do not store your fingerprint or track it; instead that information is stored locally on your device. However where tech companies have stopped tracking, the government picks up the slack. It has already been determined in many states that while police can not make suspects unlock phones or computers with passwords they can force an individual to unlock these devices with a fingerprint. This is only the tip of the iceberg with reliable facial tracking software now in existence.
Everybody wants to own a piece of you, and very quietly it has become legal for both corporations and governments to own and control your personal data. The silver lining, however, is that right now many companies are fighting against the trend of selling or distributing users personal data. As a consumer you have the choice to support those companies, which protect their users, and remove yourself from companies that don’t. The answer to the question “Who owns you” is different for everybody. So drop a line in the comments section and tell me which tech company you think has the most of your data and any concerns that brings forward for you.
P.S. I think Apple has more of my data than anybody else. The major concern I have is not Apple selling that data, but the government passing laws granting them the ability to seize that information from Apple.