Google’s track record of broken promises coerced my self-help steps, detailed below, to enhance the lingering privacy of my FitBit data.
News of Google Acquiring FitBit
The weekend brought huge news: Google acquired FitBit, with both companies issuing “your privacy remains paramount” promises. What weight should be accorded a Google promise? Start with the weight of a flea’s egg, and work backward. No need to indulge speculation, because Google’s track record provides a definitive answer.
Google’s Promises vs Its Track Record
A few years ago, Google purchased Nest. There too Google made promises. The promise devolved into an illusory option: give us your data, or watch your device die.
When Google bought Nest, it promised that it would keep Nest data and Google data in separate data silos. That promise is gone as well. While existing Nest users will be able to keep Nest accounts, Google now “strongly recommends” you transition to a Google account, and warns that the new features it intends to introduce with the service will only be available on Google Accounts. Performing that migration means giving Google all of the Nest data you once preferred to keep private.
Google Killed Nest’s Interoperability Last Week, Ends ‘Works With Nest’. May 13, 2019.
Even if Google respects its FitBit-related promises (Fantasy Island, anyone?), do you remember the Google Plus data breach? How many were adversely impacted? 52.5 million users. Google’s response: cut and run. Read: Google jettisoned the consumer version of Google Plus, confining it to the rear view mirror. Cold comfort when you think of a potential breach—under Google’s watch—involving health-focused data.
Google+ Exposed Data of 52.5 Million Users and Will Shut Down in April. December 18, 2018.
My Preemptive Strike (“Nope!” Steps)
My immediate response to the Google / FitBit acquisition? A preemptive strike process. I created yet another 33mail.com account, using a derived email address to replace the one tied to FitBit. And, I changed my city and state locations. I never gave FitBit my true name, opting instead for “Privacy Counts.” Fortunately, I’ve also long avoided a GPS tie-in with my wellness data. I wrapped up by scouring my account for any hint of potential “Match Game”/ personally-identifiable data, and killing such nuggets on sight.
If my current FitBit device dies, I’ll replace it with one of the no-name variants receiving high marks by Amazon customers. After all, the Big Boys schooled me: no advantage exists by sticking with marquee-named fitness wearable products. Nike pulled the plug on its FuelBand; JawBone and Pebble disappeared, not to mention their lesser-known cousins.
→ → Source: my hands-on Ouch! experiences
My intent: continue to keep an eye on my activity level, while doing all in my power to restrict that data to my eyes only. You’d be wise to implement a similar course of action.