Insurance Companies Tracking Fitness Data – For Better or Worse

Tracking Fitness

It’s shocking to some and no big deal to others. The fact is that today’s wearable tech has made it possible for insurance companies like John Hancock Financial to track the fitness data of its customers. This provides the insurer with a much more accurate assessment of one’s physical health, lifestyle etc. And from their point of view, this information helps them manage accounts with greater precision.

Shared Data Can Mean a Discount

Consumers who willingly share their data often qualify for a discount on their insurance rates. So for people who are already active and proud of it, it seems like sharing the data collected from their fitness trackers with their insurance company, seems somewhat natural – particularly when it can help them save money.

Privacy Concerns Are Real

The one big problem here is that once you go down that rabbit hole – privacy comes into question. Even with the latest and greatest security in place, problems can occur at any time. This could potentially leave private the private information of millions exposed, where it could be used against them.

Interactive Insurance Policies Are Here to Stay

With these “interactive policies”, insurance companies receive extra data specific to each user. This enables them to use this information to adjust their premiums accordingly. So it may cost you less. But on the other hand, it could increase your premiums. In extreme cases, it could disqualify you from any coverage from your current insurance provider.

This kind of policy is already common in the United Kingdom and is becoming increasingly popular elsewhere in the world. They can be used with life insurance, health insurance – even car insurance. Companies like Allstate provide a device you can install in your car that helps them monitor how safe of a driver you are. 

On one hand, this makes perfect sense – as long as the savings are worthwhile. But then again, could you be sharing sensitive information that an insurer has no business knowing?

In Theory – It’s A Win-Win

Life insurance companies want you to live longer. That’s what we all want – isn’t it? As long as you continue to pay premiums, you remain an active revenue source for the company. They also want to better manage their risks. That’s where shared data can tremendously be helpful in monitoring lifestyles and the general health of the customer. No longer are the only tools a questionnaire and a check up. Now insurers can have up-to- information at their fingertips.

Many consumers are hesitant due to the privacy issue. There’s no such thing as foolproof security when it comes to information storage digitally. But it’s not just an issue for consumers. Insurance companies also worry about liability, should private information being leaked inadvertently.

Cost Savings Plus You Control What Data Is Revealed

One big advantage of data sharing for consumers is the money it can save. How much exactly depends on your specific situation and the individual insurance company. But you can also decide how much data you want to share with your insurance company. 

Naturally, the more information you can share, the more you would naturally qualify in terms of discounts. But you may very well want to keep some information to yourself – or at most, between you and your doctor.

For example, you may not mind sharing the number steps that you take in a day and the calories burned off in the process. And that’s about the minimum amount of data your insurer would likely want from you. But you may not want to share some of your personal details – particularly those from the past.

Potential Downside

The disadvantage of providing such data is that your rates could go up, should your health tracker indicate that you’re a greater risk than previously assumed. You may even be denied insurance altogether. But I suspect that only happens in rare situations with extenuating circumstances. But privacy remains the biggest single issue.

Fitbit Tracking and Data Sharing

Fitbit, the most popular fitness tracker in the world, allows you to choose what information you want to share. But the truth is you’re going to have to open yourself up to get the full benefit from your fitness tracker. 

According to Fitbit, they use the information gleaned from your records to track your exercise activity and other trends, as well as to be able to suggest the most relevant future products. There’s also the option to connect to their community. In this case, your information will be shared with other users. It allows people that you know to connect with you and issue challenges to each other. In effect, it allows for friendly competition, which helps keep people more active and engaged and moving towards their fitness goals.

What Information Does Fitbit Gather?

Fitbit collects such information as your age, height, weight, and gender. This allows them to improve on accuracy when documenting your exercise and activity statistics, based on the number of calories you burn and the distance traveled. So in this case, your revelations provide increased accuracy. But it may be information that you choose not to disclose to anyone else.

It’s Confidential, but…

Basic information is used to improve and personalize the services they offer and as research data to help them develop new features, products and services. 

Fitbit claims that the information they get from you is kept confidential and will not be sold. However, they do use multiple other companies to gather, assess, process, and monitor your information. And although they have an obligation to protect your privacy, we all know that mishaps occur and information gets leaked – intentionally and unintentionally. That’s just the way it is in the digital age.

You Decide the Degree of Sharing

Personal information is only shared in limited circumstances. And you have privacy preferences that you set up inside of your account to control how much information is made available to others.

If you choose to engage in any Fitbit challenge – your privacy preferences do not apply and your information will be visible to other participants.

Fitbit also states that they may share non-personal information – details that are aggregated and de-identified, so that it cannot be used to identify anyone. Again, this information is used to assess exercise and activity in a general sense.

Disable Fitbit Data Sharing

You may disable Fitbit data sharing entirely, at any point in time. Inside of your account settings, you’ll find the tools to control how Fitbit uses whatever data you choose to provide. You can limit how visible to others your information is and the notifications you receive. You could also revoke access to third-party applications that were previously connected to your Fitbit account by default.

As long as you have a Fitbit account, they will maintain your account information such as your email address, name, and password. These are essential details to operate your account. 

It’s The Digital Age

While everyone has the right to privacy, that privacy is only as effective as the systems, software, and people deployed are at maintaining it. While you can control how your data is used in most cases, having your information stored in the digital realm comes with some degree of risk. It’s the world we live in – for better or for worse.


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