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Wearable Technology and Applications

Wearable technology and applications have been evolving at a rapid rate, which results in a number of confidentiality issues. This research is aimed at identifying the security and confidentiality issues of wearable technology, discussing the responsibility of the companies that produce them, and suggesting recommendations for resolving the issues. An extensive literature review of the relevant sources has been conducted in order to gather the findings, which have revealed that there are serious security and confidentiality issues, faced by the users of wearable technology. Therefore, the developers, the government, the law making bodies as well as the consumers themselves have been identified as being responsible for managing the risks. It has been found that the laws, related to wearable technology, are not sufficiently implemented, and, consequently, the manufacturers do not focus on improving the confidentiality. The major objective of this study is to assist in solving the confidentiality issues, related to the wearable technology, which potentially would increase the usage of the wearable devices.

Introduction

With the emergence of technology, the wearable market is growing at an unprecedented rate. FitBit bands, smart watches, and Google glass are examples of a few wearable devices that are used worldwide. Most of the wearable technology is based on wireless sensor networks (WSN) and has been widely used for medical purposes. Such networks are formed by using the wearable devices and they are often known as the Wireless Body Area Network (WBAN) (Boletsis, McCallum, & Landmark, 2015). Although the wearable technology has brought a revolution in the healthcare sphere and other industries, there are certain concerns that prevent this industry from growing at an even higher rate.

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Security and privacy issues are the two big concerns for customers, who are hesitant to adopt this new technology. Considering the fact that most of the wearable devices use WSN, these concerns seem valid. Wireless networks are usually more vulnerable to attacks that can lead to severe consequences for individuals and may even endanger their lives if the data is accessed by a person with malicious intentions. Healthcare applications usually contain sensitive data, such as the location of a person. Criminals can use this information to invade the personal space of other individuals and to harm them (Al Ameen & Kwak, 2011).

In order to advance the wearable technology, different stakeholders need to coordinate their efforts. They include governmental agencies, research institutes, and, obviously, manufacturers. Wearable technology is still at the early stage of its development. It imposes serious concerns that cannot be ignored. Therefore, government also needs to engage in solving the security issue instead of leaving it entirely to the manufacturers (Al Ameen, Liu, & Kwak, 2012). A better way to deal with security and privacy concerns would be to combine educational efforts and public pressure, complying with the industry-wide standards and self-regulations, rather than to impose top-down regulations. Transparency and active enforcement of legal standards would also contribute to making wearable technology more secure. Traditionally, transparency has been used as a major tool for ensuring the privacy of consumers. Strengthening the existing fair information practice principles (FIPPs) can also yield fruitful results. Such approach would allow using the benefits of this technology and at the same time dealing with security issues (Thierer, 2016).

The present research aims at identifying the major confidentiality and security concerns, associated with the usage of the wearable technology. It identifies the authorities, responsible for maintaining the security of this technology and suggests the ways of improving the security and confidentiality. The findings of the study support the users and sellers of the wearable technology by reducing their security concerns (Fynn, 2014).

Research Questions

This section presents the research questions that are raised in this study. The questions are designed, basing on the literature survey and the research aims. The reasoning for each research question has also been provided.

Are there security and privacy issues, related to the wearable device at home and in the health care?

This research question would identify whether or not there is a security issue by making conclusions, based on the literature review. The wearable devices used for providing home and health care are of a special focus for the question.

What are the security and privacy challenges in it?

Once the presence of the security and privacy issues in the wearable technology would be identified, the second question would focus on describing the exact issues. This question is designed in order to develop a detailed insight into the issues and their nature, so that the relevant recommendations could be suggested.

Who is responsible and what are there ways to increase security?

Finally, the last research question aims at identifying responsible people and organizations that should improve the security and privacy of the wearable devices. Moreover, the ways, in which present privacy issues can be resolved, would also be investigated in this question. Identifying responsible people and possible improvements is important, because it provides an opportunity to suggest some recommendations.

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Literature Review

In today’s world the technology is progressing at a much faster rate than most people can imagine. The use of wearable wireless technologies such as FitBit bands, smart watches, and Google glass has been prevailing worldwide. The use of this technology is also increasing in medicine through the use of Wireless Body Area Network (WBAN). Even though this technology may benefit many people, there is an increasing concern among users regarding the security and privacy of these devices. This literature review represents the on-going debates between the researchers and the companies regarding the benefits and challenges of security and privacy issues, related to the use of the wearable technologies.

Healthcare Benefits

Boletsis, McCallum, and Landmark (2015) argued in favor of the wearable technology due to the healthcare benefits that are gained through the use of WBANs. The technology has been developed by the first world countries that have contributed large sums of money from their budget to the healthcare sphere. According to them, the development of this field will help chronically ill patients to decrease the amount of visits they need to make to the hospital. The homecare for the elderly, who suffer from such diseases as Dementia, is significantly facilitated by the use of wearable devices (Boletsis. McCallum, & Landmark, 2015). Similarly, Revesencio (2016) described that the wearable technology is expected to completely transform our daily lives by 2025. This author believes that wearable technology enables people to be safer, as they can automatically communicate critical information (such as speed of travel, audio, and location) to the emergency services by using a smart phone. Wearsafe is an example of such application, which is a starting project, aimed at increasing the life safety. FitBit tracker is another device, which keeps the user informed about his daily health conditions, which could be later used to consult a physician immediately when required.

Confidentiality and Privacy Risks

On the other hand, many authors argue that in addition to the benefits, brought by the wearable technology for the health of patients, serious confidentiality and privacy risks would be be faced by people. The technology may gather confidential data about users without their consent that can then be used for various purposes such as marketing, recruitment, and insurance (Al Ameen, Liu, & Kwak, 2012). Moreover, the data, collected through the wearable devices, could be even used by the intelligence agencies to monitor individuals. For example, the current locations of people could be easily tracked through the wearable device; the travelling speed of a consumer can be transferred to the insurance company, alerting it about the aggressive driving behavior of a client; the photos and videos of the surrounding/sensitive areas can be captured. Thus, the technology would have negative implications for the social life of individuals. Al Ameen, Liu, and Kwak (2012) further described that the confidentiality risks, associated with the wearable devices, would prevent the users from enjoying their benefits. Therefore, many users would not prefer to use the wearable devices on a daily basis.

As the use of wearable devices would increase at a rapid rate in future, the policies regarding their use would be needed in each sphere of life. Fynn (2014) has published an article that describes the security concerns in detail and suggests possible counter actions, related to the use of the wearable devices. It is expected that the workplace employees will be using these wearable devices in future more extensively, which would enable them to transfer the sensitive organizational data, so that the companies would need to implement efficient policies, regarding the use of such devices within the organizational boundaries.

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Responsibility for Secure Wearables

Making wearable devices more secure is the responsibility of the companies that manufacture them. In addition, the governments and individual consumers would also be considered responsible for the confidentiality of their data. The companies should make sure that the data of their users is not forwarded or sold to any third party company without the users’ consent. The governments should pass laws and regulations that would govern the use of the consumer data by the firms. Moreover, it should take actions against any company that might break these laws. Consumers are also responsible for taking care of their own confidentiality. They should ensure that the company, which sells a device to them, is reliable. As it was mentioned by Drolet (2016), in most of these devices, there are no data protection measures, which could restrict the physical access to data. Therefore, customers are advised to take preventive measures such as setting passwords or pins (wherever possible) and enabling bio-metric & user authentication. In addition, clients should also keep the software of their wearable devices up-to-date in order to prevent vulnerabilities and hacker attacks.

Solutions to Improve Security

Although wearable technology may pose a threat to the security or privacy of the masses, there are solutions that can help to prevent these issues. First solution to the problem is the encryption of signals from one end to the other. Cryptography has vital importance, because organizations that lack encryption suffer from such activities as data theft. Cryptography should be introduced at the individual level in order to ensure personal security. Microsoft further adds another suggestion, according to which wearable devices need to be authenticated and should have appropriate security controls, applied to prevent any unwanted interventions (Thierer, 2016).
In addition to the technological means of prevention, the legal systems of the country can also play their role in making wearable technologies safer. There are many State and Federal laws that solve confidentiality issues, associated with the wearable technology. FTC takes care of consumer privacy and protection in cases when companies fail to provide it. Finally, the social setting regulators would also be of great help for improving the security of wearable devices in the coming years. These regulators include a change in the attitude, social norms, and public pressure.

Summary

This literature review discussed the arguments related to the use, confidentiality, and security of the wearable devices. It has identified that although many researchers acknowledge health and personal safety benefits of the wearable technology, there are increasing concerns of individuals, companies, and researchers regarding the data protection and privacy issues of consumers. The manufacturing companies, governments, law making bodies and individual users are responsible for managing the security of these devices. In conclusion, it is stated that there is an essential need to work on improving the security of wearable devices in order to improve the consumer trust.

Methods

The present research is based on secondary resources. The detailed analysis was conducted on the basis of the information, collected from the peer reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings, and websites. The scholar articles were accessed by using Google Scholar. The advanced searching options were used in order to ensure that the obtained results are published in the peer reviewed sources. Hence, the gathered data was reliable that influenced the reliability and validity of the present research findings.

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Results

Research Question 1

This question aimed at identifying whether or not there are confidentiality risks, associated with the use of wearable technology. Through the secondary research it has been revealed that are increasing confidentiality and security concerns among consumers about the usage of wearable devices. The data, generated by the sensors of the wearable devices, can be used without the knowledge or consent of the user, so that the developing companies can send this data to the marketers or insurance agents.

Research Question 2

This question aimed at investigating the challenges that are met by people and organizations when they try to maintain the confidentiality of the wearable devices. The challenge of managing the confidentiality and security of wearable devices has appeared due to the fact that the major focus of the developers, marketers, and consumers has always remained on the application of the devices rather than on dealing with the confidentiality issues. The developers as well as customers need to be more aware about the possible confidentiality issues.

Research Question 3

The third research question was designed to identify people and bodies, responsible for solving the confidentiality issues, associated with the wearable devices and to suggest the ways of resolving them. The responsibility of providing confidentiality and security of consumers lies on the developers, the governments, and the law making agencies. The present day condition of the wearable devices can be improved if the law making agencies develop and strictly implement the laws, related to the sales and the use of these devices, that would make consumers aware about the policies and would encourage them to purchase devices from legitimate and responsible marketers. Finally, clients also need to customize their devices through bio-metrics that can prevent the transmission of their data.

Discussion (Student 1)

Discussion on RQ1

The threat to one’s security and privacy is undoubtedly present when using wearable technology. While providing enumerable benefits to humanity in such areas as health care and domestic life, the rapid integration of wireless wearable technology in one’s life is associated with certain risks. For example, one’s privacy may be broken by taking data from individuals without their consent and passing information about visited places or driving speed to various marketing, recruitment, and intelligence agencies. One’s own security may also be at risk due to the fact that wearable technology allows intelligence organizations to track and even document (photograph) the movements of individuals.

Discussion on RQ2

The challenge, associated with the use of wearable technology, is a need to protect the confidentiality of the users while maintaining the low cost. In case when very sophisticated technologies are used, the cost might increase. Therefore, the authorities need to develop the cost effective security solutions for the users.

Discussion on RQ3

The parties responsible for such threats are actually represented by those, who initially develop and manufacture the devices. The government is also responsible, as it has to ensure the security of the citizens, and of course the role of the consumers themselves may not be ignored, because they are accountable for their own confidentiality. The mentioned authorities should take measures to minimize such security risks. Consumers are advised to enable security checks whenever possible (passwords/PINs) and to keep the software up-to-date in order to prevent vulnerabilities. It is recommended that one uses bio-metric forms of identification to reduce hacking. The government is obliged to pass laws on a federal level to prevent the confidentiality problems that the wearable technology may bring. In addition, the government must take action against corporations that mislead individuals in order to break customers’ privacy and protection. Finally, the companies that create such technologies can employ such methods as encryption of transmitted signals on both sending and receiving ends, as well as establish extensive data protection measures to restrict access to the data itself.

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Discussion (Student 2)

Discussion on RQ1

As any great improvement, wearable wireless technology brings many opportunities for bypassing customer privacy and security that can overshadow its possible advantages. The benefits of it are enjoyed not only by marketing and insurance firms that are will to exploit activity logs, but also by intelligence agencies and malicious individuals that are able to monitor one’s location and to take non-consensual pictures, using their own increasingly subtle wearable devices. It has been discovered that wearable technology leaks passwords and is considered to be the primary source of security breaches in the modern age. The lack of encryption allows third parties access to any data, the wearable devices may hold.

Discussion on RQ2

The challenges of maintaining confidentiality of the wearable devices should convince the developers as well as consumers to deal with privacy risks. Very often the developers are just interested in accelerating the development process and then executing such activities as marketing, which can bring them the most benefits. Similarly, the consumers often tend to neglect the privacy risks and to focus more on the purpose of using the wearable device.

Discussion on RQ3

There is no single organization, on which the world can place a blame for these security and privacy issues, because all parties are equally involved in it. For example, the design and manufacturing companies in their competitive rush to place a product on the market sacrifice proper encryption and security details in favour of faster development. Customers, on the other hand, are prone to blindly agree with terms and conditions as well as to refuse to apply more extensive privacy, thus making it easier for hackers to access the information. The government, meanwhile, holds responsibility for the interests of its citizens, so it should take measures to protect them when possible.

Such measures include establishing a legal framework, so that no private individual or organization would have the ability to use data that the consumer explicitly provides to them. It should also impose strict restrictions for the breach of personal data. The creators of the devices should dedicate part of their budget to strengthening security and integrating more bio-tech security measures, as they are harder to bypass, while individuals at risk must take their own precautions by conducting more extensive security checks and subscribing for the data breach insurance.

Discussion (Student 3)

Discussion on RQ1

Most of the wearable devices such as Fitbit Bands, Smart Watches, and Google glass have introduced a major shift in technology. There might be immense benefits, gained from the use of these technologies, but the privacy concerns, caused by them, cannot be ignored. The devices have been reported to cause the leak of various personal data, including users’ forms and logins. It gives an opportunity for the companies to use the information about their customers and to offer it to the marketers, who later spam their emails, mobile inbox etc. Another security concern is that the data can be used to track customers and to obtain their personal data. This is a violation of the individual privacy, as the location of clients can be permanently recorded in the log books of the company, even when the smart watch is not connected to the phone any more. Moreover, the data of the user can easily be tampered, read, deleted, and edited by a third party, for example, by insurers, who can assess the health risks that will result in policy cancellation or an increase in the insurance.

Discussion on RQ2

The challenge to maintain the security and confidentiality of the wearable devices has become a serious issue, because the developers would to introduce a customized solution for each device. The wearable devices are often application specific, so the developers need to ensure that the security solution corresponds to the functions of a device.

Discussion on RQ3

Technically, the company that introduces these technologies is responsible for the privacy and security concerns of the individual users. The companies need to realize that if the personal data is not secure, individuals will hesitate to buy and efficiently use these technologies, which consequently will become just elements of fashion.
The companies should ensure that they protect the security data by applying malware scans, installing antivirus software, and checking emails for anything doubtful. The companies need to fully communicate their terms and conditions to the users in order to ensure that they know who has access to their data, where it is stored and for what purposes it can be used.

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Conclusion

The present research investigated the confidentiality issues associated with the wearable devices. It has been identified that although the area of the wearable technology application have been evolving at a rapid rate, the increasing security concerns, associated with this technology, have been limiting its usage. The data of the users can be applied by the developers as well as it might be sent to the third parties without the consent or even knowledge of the users. The detailed review of the existing research articles and websites was conducted in order to develop and answer the research questions. The literature review helped to identify the authorities responsible for handling confidentiality issues and was used to suggest the ways of improving the present day conditions. There was made a recommendation to develop relevant laws, which could control the misuse of the client’s information and promote the awareness of developers and consumers.

The major strength of this work is that it has drawn the findings, based on the facts and data that were published in authentic sources. However, the weakness of it is the fact that it has not involved primary research. Hence, one possible way to extend this research in future is to conduct a structured survey of the users of wearable technology in order to identify their opinions about the confidentiality and security issues.