People in the United States are embracing wearable technology: phones, bracelets, watches, shoes, even clothes. These items will gather all manner of data about you – data that if precedents continue, may be used against you in a court of law.
You’re used to some of this technology already. Your cell phone sits in your pocket or purse and gathers and stores millions upon millions of bits of data about you: Where you are, where you’ve been, what you buy, who you are talking to, who you’re texting, and what you’re saying. It also transfers much of this information to databases in the “cloud,” where it is stored by companies that want to get to know you better so they can advertise to you more effectively.
Now, companies and entrepreneurs are getting the technology even closer to you. Here are just a few of the wearable technologies you can get now or very soon:
Smart watches: The new Apple Watch joins a myriad of other wrist-worn devices (Samsung Gear 2, Pebble, Sony SmartWatch, etc.) and includes a heart rate sensor, accelerometer (it measures your speed and acceleration), and a GPS. It’s also reported to be able to track glucose levels for people with diabetes.
Smart rings: Slip them on your fingers and they will notify you about messages, allow you to pay for purchases and track your movements.
Smart glasses: Although originally envisioned as a “see the digital world superimposed on the real world” device, smart eyeglasses like Google Glass have found a more recent niche in the medical world. Once Google shakes the bugs loose, these will track your location, buying habits, friends, preferences, and a myriad of other items and display them all handily in your own personal heads-up display.
Smart clothing: Does your hoodie let you send texts? Well, if could. Smart Hoodies respond to gestures so you can send texts when grabbing your phone is just too taxing. Shoes that track your workouts and charge your other devices could be your next fashion statement. Some companies have even even developed clothes that will monitor your baby’s vital signs and alert you to a problem.
Just remember that when you embrace these gadgets, all of the data they collect about you could be fair game for attorneys looking to support or debunk your claims in court.
A recent article in Forbes described how attorneys for an injured personal trainer in Canada plan to use data from a Fitbit wristband as evidence in a trial. A Fitbit is a device you wear on your wrist that measures and records your activity levels. For instance, it can record how many steps you walk in a day, how many flights of stairs you climb, and more.
The tactic is not new and has been accepted by the courts. For years now, the legal community has been able to breach your privacy and get into your phone’s records or your social networks. And now, by using data-gathering gadgets you may, in fact, be unwittingly incriminating yourself. From one standpoint people will be more accountable – perhaps fraud will be harder to perpetuate. But let’s say you are the victim of a horrible accident, one where a drowsy truck driver wandered into your lane and forced your car off the road. You’re suing the trucking company. If your Apple Watch buzzed with an email notification seconds before the crash, then the lawyers defending that at-fault driver will build a case against you – that you were the distracted driver and that you share the blame in the accident.
So as the devices around you get smarter, you, too, should be on a steep learning curve and be thinking about how they expose you to legal risk. Take a lesson from current technology safeguards. There are cell phone apps to prevent texting while driving and Apple is trying to patent technology to prevent drivers from using their phones while their car is in motion. One could imagine there will be similar types of safeguards available for other wearable tech that will prevent you from being too distracted while you interact in the physical world. Another tactic you could try is to navigate the privacy settings of your new tech to try to ensure it is storing data only on your device so you can control it more easily. Or, you could simply refrain from using some of these things altogether.
Regardless, as adoption of this new technology increases in your everyday life it increases the abilities of those who want to peer into it and expose it, and that’s what should really scare you.