If nothing else, Google, Facebook and Amazon have one major thing in common: it's safe to assume they know who you are, your general interests and what you like to buy.
The sheer number of devices and platforms people interact with now paint a pretty clear picture of an individual, no doubt to the joy of advertisers everywhere. Your smartphone is a huge part of that, filled with data-collecting apps and other trackers that can be hard at work even when you're asleep. But it's not just your phone keeping tabs on you at night.
For years, sleep apps have tracked stats such as when you go to bed, when you wake up and how well you slept. Now, you've got smart beds and mattress pads becoming more popular and you won't believe the shocking amounts of data that can be collected - which could even include details about your sex life.
They see you when you're sleeping. They know when you're awake.
Sleep tracking has become pretty popular over the years, to say the least. We've long had wearable fitness trackers that monitor sleep patterns through movement, along with countless apps available for Android and iOS. That market's only getting bigger as tech grows smarter.
Are they helpful? Sure. Maybe you're not sleeping well so you'd like to know how often you tossed and turned, if your heart rate stayed steady and whether or not you made it to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
But just like any other connected device or app, chances are your data is being scooped up as part of those efforts to improve your health. That means marketing firms might also know just how much you toss and turn at night.
There's no question, health data is valuable - especially extensive amounts that can be collected by the latest sleep aids like smart beds. And more data means more profit opportunities - at your expense. Now researchers are raising questions about your data and what else it's being used for.
Marketing your sleep habits
Kaiser Health News (KHN) took a look at sleep-tracking apps and devices, including Sleep Number's smart bed that tracks data including movement, heart rate and respiration. According to their report, Sleep Number collects more than 8 million biometric data points - every second of every night. A companion app on your phone then sends that data back to Sleep Number, they use that data to improve their algorithms.
That's what the company's CEO said during a health conference last month, adding that all that personal data not only helps people learn more about their health but also leads to a better product. Using more data to improve tech isn't uncommon (like Alexa), but it all comes down to privacy. And this kind of collection, especially because it deals with health information, is causing concern.
Sharing your health data
Connected sleep-tracking devices aren't all the same and the types of data they collect can vary, depending on sensors and other tech. You won't find the same equipment in a wearable as you would a smart bed or mattress pad.
While you'll find movement, respiration and heart rate tracking in many, some devices even have built-in microphones to listen for snoring. Put it all together, and it's very possible the data being collected could be used to determine what else you've been doing in bed - and I don't mean sleeping.
So it can be a mix of sensitive health and very personal information that has the potential to go far beyond the initial company that's collecting it. That and federal privacy rules don't apply to sleep trackers when it comes to your personal data.
Keeping your own privacy intact
- What data is being collected and who can see it?
- Who else is that data being shared with?
- How long is your data stored, even after you've stopped using the product?
- Can you opt out of data collection?
You can also limit the amount of some data being collected by changing device settings. Click or tap here to learn more about adjusting your smartphone settings. And employ the same security as you would with any other account, using sophisticated passwords and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) if it's an option.
Knowing you're as secure as you can be might just help you sleep better in the first place.
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