Cybersecurity and Sleep Data: How Safe Are You?
Technology has made our lives a lot easier in many ways, but it has complicated it in others, too. Especially when it comes to your security.
As humans increasingly rely on apps and devices, more and more of our data is being stored on various platforms. That includes the devices we use to track our sleep. Any data we hand over to a device is typically stored on a server in the cloud. And sometimes that data can be compromised.
But should we be concerned about our privacy when it comes to sleep data? D. Reed Freeman Jr., a leading authority on privacy and cybersecurity, says the answer isn’t so black and white.
“It’s a broad question,” he says.
To break it down: sleep aids, Freeman says, are considered an internet of things device by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These are any type of device that would monitor sleep patterns that are connected to the internet. Things like FitBits or smart beds send information gathered by the user and store it into a cloud-based system.
That data is not entirely secure — as is any data on the internet. But because of many recent cases about major data breaches, devices like those that measure sleep are much more highly scrutinized. Companies that create these devices know that, so they ensure their products can withstand the test of any cybersecurity attack.
“I’ve been doing this for the past 25 years,” Reed says. “And in the last five years, the FTC has become more aggressive and congress has been more aggressive. As people are increasingly pointing out flaws, that results in the FTC being more aggressive, and if they’re more aggressive, companies will respond.”
A major case that changed the game for cybersecurity was the TRENDnet Inc. case. The FTC found that a camera made by the tech company had faulty software that left them open to online viewing and, in some instances, listening, by anyone with the cameras’ internet access. The case was finalized in 2014.
While no one company can be 100% secure, Reed says because of some damaging high-profile cases, companies are now selling privacy and security as a main feature of their product. Apple released a new ad campaign in 2019 doing just that.
“Data security has significantly improved as a whole,” he says. “And it’s going to continue to get better, because if consumers don’t trust companies they work with to maintain their data securely, especially their sensitive data, then other market participants will jump on that.”
So does that mean you should throw out personalized sleep trackers? As far as Reed’s concerned, they’re harmless.
“I wear one of them,” Reed says. “I know as well as anybody what the potential risks are, and I am nevertheless confident that regulatory threats and market forces in the industry as a whole has brought us into a much better place than we had a few years ago.”