wearable technology, amazon, google, apple, biometric data, biometrics, wearables, consumer data, Fitbit, Apple Watch, Halo


Amazon can tell when you are sleeping, when you are awake, and when you are stressed, and they can do it before you may recognize it yourself. At least it will be able to if you decide to buy their newest wearable health monitoring technology. In 2020, Amazon joined Google’s Fitbit and Apple’s Apple Watch in the wearable technology market with the Amazon Halo. A wristband outfitted with a variety of sensors designed to help manage and record health identifiers, including body fat percentage, step tracking, sleep tracking, and now emotional responses. Many companies have begun developing and exploring the power that comes from harvesting our biometric data. Companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon have established massive reach through their existing platforms, which millions of people regularly use. These companies have discovered the usefulness of accessing biometric data to complement their already expansive traditional data collection practices and are beginning to expand their capacity to develop technologies that allow them to take advantage of their existing reach. As these corporations invest in wearable biometric reading devices, “wearables,” they can also take advantage of their massive capacity to utilize the information they extract from the biometric readings of users through their wearable technology.

To address these problems, Washington State should take two more steps. To respond to this changing technological environment, Washington State should adopt new definitions for biometric identifiers, to expand legal coverage for potentially abusable data that companies are beginning to harvest. Washington State should also address the risk of in-house abuse by large corporations that use consumer data in various projects by imposing a higher standard of consent to harvest biometric data from consumers. Further, the Federal Government should adopt similar ethical standards to those imposed on biomedical research organizations which gather, store, and use massive quantities of patient data. The Federal Government should also set an informed consent requirement based on dynamic consent and should require corporations to provide notice and obtain affirmative consent every time they want to use consumer biometric data for a new project. Dynamic consent incorporates an initial consent agreement and creates an ongoing dialogue where consumers can choose to allow or choose to bar the use of their data for new projects as the corporate interest arises. Implementing ethical standards will require corporations and consumers engage in ongoing dialogue about creating a system with less potential for abuse and ensure that corporations do not cause harm when people agree to something they may not understand.