PC Doctor March 15, 2021

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Dear PC Doctor:

The company I work for has offered to pay for part of the cost of a Fitbit for employees – They want us to move more and have started a company-wide wellness program. I’m really excited! I’ve wanted a Fitbit, and I have friends who do step challenges on the weekends that I’ll be able to be part of if I opt in. How much info do fitness trackers collect about us when we wear them? Who can see that data?


Walking Tall

Dear Walking:

What information the fitness tracker collects depends on how fancy a model you get and what settings you choose to leave on or turn off. Most keep track of how many steps you take, how long you’re not moving, and your heart rate. Some have GPS, so the device can actually transmit exactly where you are, even on the weekends. Your employer will have access to this information. If you’re trying to lose weight and log your meals, that information may be available, too. (The website for the model your workplace is offering should have those details.) On most models, you can choose to turn off some of the features (like having your text messages flash across the tracker’s screen). Which ones you use will be up to you.

In the end, it’s worth reading any agreement you sign when opting in for the device, and asking clarifying questions about how the information will be used. Then you can decide what you want to do.

In the meantime, if you have a smartphone, chances are likely that your phone has an app that counts your steps. For iPhones and Samsung, both apps are called Health. Many other phones can use the Google Fit app. You can ask your employer if using one of these and self-reporting your step numbers will count as participation in their company wellness program.

I hope this helps,
Until next time,
Happy Computing!
PC Doctor

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