Are you safe from the spying dangers of wearable technology?

Author

Olivia Goldhill

December 5, 2014

Wearable technology provides us with a world of data – but also makes us vulnerable to unseen security breaches

Wearable technology has turned science fiction into reality. No longer do we have to pick up or turn on our electronic devices – they’re attached to our wrists and propped on our noses, filming and tracking our every activity.

But while we’re still adapting to the information made available through wearable technology, we’ve left ourselves wide open to security breaches. Businesses across the UK are failing to protect their data from scrutiny, and individuals are even less prepared. More than 80 per cent of British businesses recognise that an increase in the number of wearable devices could pose a security risk, according to an Accellion report, yet 77 per cent do not include wearable technology in their broader mobile security strategy.

Companies have a relaxed attitude towards wearable devices even though gadgets such as Google Glass can surreptitiously and easily store private data. “It used to be you had to leave your camera by the door when you went into many company establishments but they’ve given up on that except in high security environments – it’s too impractical,” says Professor Will Stewart from the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

So as we allow smart watches and Google Glass to infiltrate our lives, what are the security threats they pose?

Smartphones already have access to a terrifying amout of data such as GPS locations – but wearable technology makes this far more accessible. For example, fitness bands are worn on the wrist and measure paces walked, which could clearly indicate the location of your house and favourite coffee spot as it tracks your route. Similarly, a band that measures heart rate creates a database of private medical information.

Professor Stewart says that a next generation 999 service could give emergency services access to your camera and microphone and, as Google Glass tracks your perspective, the video could become standard evidence in court cases. But while there are many positive aspects to wearable technology data, there are also terrifying threats if the information is misused.

“Are life insurers going to insist on access to your wearable data?” says Professor Stewart. “Are you lying about how much exercise you take? This won’t happen just yet but you can see it might well happen.”

Google Glass deos used to enforce honesty in court cases could also be hacked by spouses who suspect their partner of cheating – wearable technology essentially creates a network of potential spying devices.

Although the data should theoretically be protected, any information can potentially be accessed by the wrong people.

There’s not one subset of data that wearable technology has new access to – but the devices can link up existing sets of data with, for example, facial recognition technology, to create a more complete and traceable picture of our daily lives and secrets.

“I don’t think people have really twigged what a big deal this is,” says Professor Stewart. “The system knows great amount of information about us and is recording our lives. It’s a security concern that’s changing the world.”

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