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Smartwatch makers must do more to improve user privacy: report

In this May 28, 2015 photo, an Android Wear smartwatch is on display at Google I/O 2015 in San Francisco. Android Wear puts the “smart” in smartwatches by anticipating your needs _ weather, travel times and appointment reminders, based on what Google learns about you. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A local foundation says smartwatch companies need to do more to protect the privacy of those wearing them

Vancouver's Human Data Commons Foundation graded smartwatch manufacturers on data collection and sharing

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Smartwatches and fitness trackers are on a lot of wrists these days, and a local foundation says the companies that make them need to do more to protect the privacy of those wearing them.

The Human Data Commons Foundation, a Vancouver non-profit, has released a report card grading companies on their privacy policies and other factors.

“Smartwatches and fitness trackers are popular holiday gifts. There are many review sites comparing features and what it’s like to use the fitness trackers and smartwatches these companies make,” the reports co-author, Greg McMullen, says. “We think it’s just as important to look at how the companies use your data.”

The foundation reviewed eighteen leading manufacturers and graded them on privacy rights, data collection and sharing, data access, and security.

“[The report] gives consumers information about which companies respect their privacy and legal rights and encourages companies to make better choices for their users,” the reports reads.

The foundation says it found lots of companies creating marketing profiles with users’ fitness data and with information from social media.

It says some smartwatch makers have partnered with insurance companies to share the fitness information they have collected, which is also sometimes shared with police conducting criminal investigations.

Of the 18 manufacturers, Apple smartwatches came in first place while Samsung and Moov placed at the bottom of the list.

This report card is the third annual report meant to “empower citizens to build a more equitable and sustainable digital future for all,” the foundation says.