Halo Rise is considered to be "Creepy" by Mozilla

Mozilla flags Garmin products as best at protecting user privacy

A couple of Amazon products, along with Verizon GizmoWatch and Ray-Ban Facebook Stories top the list of health and fitness gadgets that have been flagged for privacy issues. Garmin products, on the other hand, do an excellent job when it comes to protecting your privacy.

This information comes from Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included guide. The company refreshes this list on a regular basis to pinpoint the most “Creepy” products. It is something you might want to check-out before deciding on that last minute Christmas gift.

Mozilla is the non-profit organization behind the Firefox browser. They describe their mission as working to “ensure the internet remains a public resource that is open and accessible to all.”


Privacy and security of data

It’s important at the outset to mention the distinction between privacy with security – they are not the same. Security is about preventing unauthorised access. A good example of bad security is the hack Garmin experienced a couple of years ago. This led to 5 days of Garmin server outage and lots of frustrated users. Luckily, the situation was resolved and users regained access to their data.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets

Privacy is something different. It is more to do with the way your data is used – for example, for marketing purposes. It is also about whether your data is sold on to third parties. This type of stuff usually appears in the small print. But who bothers to read that stuff?

Perhaps you should.


Mozilla recommends avoiding these products

Here’s a list of wearables that collect a large quantity of user data of various kinds. If you want to avoid a privacy nightmare, you might want to think twice before purchasing them.

  1. For the second year in the row, topping the rankings in a negative way is the Amazon Halo Band. Mozilla says that Amazon has taken creepy to a whole new level with its release. Not only does it have the option to listen to and analyse what you are saying, but you are also meant to upload pictures of yourself with little clothing on for body fat analysis. That’s kind of hard to beat as far as creepy wearables. Do you really want Amazon to have that kind of information about you?
  2. Another Amazon product is next on the rankings. This is a new device called Halo Rise. Launched in September, the radar-like sleep tracker sits at your bedside and sends out a low energy, milimeter-wave radar to collect information while you are lying asleep. Okay, you are probably safe from Amazon selling your data to third-parties. But it is possible the retail tech giant could use this information to sell you more stuff.
  3. Watches meant for kids are high up the rankings this year. And flagged by Mozilla as worst for privacy in this group is the GizmoWatch. Verizon doesn’t exactly have the best track record at protecting their users’ privacy so this is something those looking to purchase should consider.
  4. Ray-Ban Facebook Stories. Smart glasses are also not faring very well on the privacy list. One example are the Ray-Ban Facebook Stories. The specs have built in microphones and cameras that can record what you’re seeing and hearing. The problem is not so much with the glasses, but with Facebook’s poor record when it comes to respecting people’s privacy.
  5. Huawei Watch Kids 4 Pro is another smartwatch for little ones on this list. Mozilla doesn’t mention any specific privacy flaws. But there is an overall warning on trusting your kid’s information with Huawei. Privacy isn’t exactly what the Chinese tech-giant is known for.
  6. Snap Spectacles 4.0. These specs come with a touchpad, two cameras, and four microphones. All of this allows you to photo and video the world (and people) around you. Some might even say they make it easy to secretly film people!
  7. A third kids smartwatch appears in the top 10 health and fitness gadgets ranked as very creepy. TickTalk 4 has not been flagged for privacy issues to do with kids’ data. Instead, it is to do with information TickTalk collects about the adults or guardians. This includes things such as name, email address, relationship to the child, location information, device information and more. TickTalks explicitly says they can use this information for things like personalization and promotions. 
  8. Mirror. As its name implies, this is a full-length mirror that projects all kinds of workouts in your living room for a monthly subscription. You exercise in front of it and the mirror lets you know how well you are doing. Mozzila quite rightly points out that you should be careful with any device that brings a camera and microphone into your home. 
  9. Xiaomi Mi Band. With millions of these devices sold globally, this is one of the most popular budget fitness bands in the world. The issue here is Xiaomi, the parent company of Mi. They were recently caught secretly collecting data on some users. So there’s the danger that your personal information may be shared with any number of Xiaomi affiliate companies.
  10. Amazfit products. The manufacturer of Amazfit watches and fitness bands is Huami (Zepp Health). They are also the manufacturers of Xiaomi Mi Bands. Amazfit privacy policy states that “HUAMI may disclose your personal data to Xiaomi or other Mi Ecosystem companies so as to provide you with and improve existing products and services.”

Other products that do not fit the wearable category that Mozilla suggests avoiding include the Facebook Portal, Meta Portal, Eufy Video Smartwatch Lock and Amazon Astro Robot. These present the highest privacy risk to consumers.


There’s a silver lining

Let’s end this article on a positive note. After all, it is the holiday season. The good news is for Garmin product owners. Epix 2, Fenix 7 and a number of other Garmin devices appear on the list as excellent when it comes to handling privacy. A couple of Withings products are there, as well.

Little danger of Garmin or Withings using or selling your data for marketing purposes. Both companies do a pretty good job at protecting your privacy with all that health data they collect.

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