Wearable vendors must develop and implement policies and procedures regarding data protection and security, as well as consumer privacy, before implementing research and development strategies, according to a recent report.
The Health Data Exploration Project initiative between the University of California San Diego Center for Democracy & Technology and Fitbit, in which the fitness company provided access to its internal research and development process, produced the report, detailing best-of-breed privacy practices for wearables makers.
"R&D teams in wearable technology can and should also be laboratories of privacy and ethical research best practices," the report's authors write. They add that internal research and development provides a flexible scenario for privacy and ethical data policy pilots and practices as well as offers an opportunity to build a culture of privacy and security.
Wearable advancements, such as sensors and complex algorithms, demand stronger data protection and user privacy efforts, according to the report.
"As the wearable industry grows, and as products and services become more intimately connected to our personal lives, questions about the role of individual dignity, data stewardship, and corporate citizenship will increase. We have a unique opportunity to ameliorate public concern now and in the future by defining the wearable industry as one that stands up for user privacy and dignity, starting with a commitment to privacy-aware and ethical guidelines for R&D," the report's authors write.
The recommendations come at a time when wearables use is steadily climbing. Research firm Tractica predicts more than 66 million wearables will ship globally each year by 2021. Healthcare is a prime market, according to Tractica, which expects smart clothing shipments to spike from 968,000 this year to 24.8 million by 2021.