Including End Users In the Conversation About Their Bits Being Sold

January 31, 2017

Fitbit recenttly announced a program to pay their wearable users up to $1500 for integrating their Charge 2 into the UnitedHealthcare Motion program powered by Qualcomm Life’s 2net Platform. The "UnitedHealthcare Motion is an employer-sponsored wearable device wellness program that offers financial incentives for enrollees who meet daily step goals". Pulling back the curtain just a little bit on the value of your Internet of Things data, and specifically the devices you strap to your body.

I am not a fan of corporations strapping devices to their employees as part of these wellness programs (or for any reason), and using cash incentive to achieve the desired behavior. I feel this is a doorway to some pretty dark human resources strategies, but I do think these events pull back the curtains on what is going on, even just a little bit for users. I am sure it's not Fitbit's intention to include end-users in all of their monetization of their data, but I see this as an opportunity to educate end-users in these situations.

Most Internet users are not aware of the amount of information being gathered, bought and sold when they use the Internet, and their mobile phones. This lack of awareness is translating pretty nicely to the world of connected devices, adding some valuable demographic dimensions, to an already valuable user profile. While insurance companies are interested in improving their margins with this data, they are also interested in the new revenue streams they can create by selling data to other brokers, hedge funds, and more. 

One of the only hopes I have in this area is that startups will continue to pull back the curtain on this behavior either intentionally or unintentionally with products, services, and programs like the wellness program that Fitbit is offering. Showing users that there is value in their data, and this can be a positive first step in educating them about what is happening in the tech world. Once they get a taste of making some actual cash from their data, I'm hoping that more users establish an appetite for understanding the value of their information.

I'm counting on future waves of startups blindly disrupting industries by continuing to pull back the curtain, as well existing companies looking to gain a competitive advantage by operating this way. Leveraging market forces against industry leaders is one of the most important tools we have in our toolbox to combat exploitation of our data. You will find me encouraging companies to do this as a disruptive tactic, and as a competitive edge, not because I want to help them, but because I want to help end-users with each wave. It is my way of using their quest for startup success against the practices of the wider industry and leveraging it to help end-users in any way that I can.

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