Do you own data about yourself?
What's the point in quantifying yourself if you can't get hold of the data you produce? Data ownership: here be dragons…
It’s amazing where internet dragons may lurk… Yesterday’s post about the quantified self and sleep data seemed pretty straightforward to me. But do we really own the data we generate about ourselves? Some of the consumer-grade services that focus on personal physical data don’t allow you any useful access to that data.
Paul Miller explains the data ownership problem on The Verge:
With almost all devices on the market, a user cannot access the raw movement data it tracks — it has to be at least uploaded to an app or website where it gets parsed and then shown to you in standard terms like “calories burned.” This is fine for 99.9 percent of users, but I think the problem starts here. Even from a privacy standpoint, the idea that your data has to be uploaded to the internet, for someone else to churn and store before it can be accessed, is disconcerting. But from a hacking perspective, it bothers me that it’s nearly impossible for developers and tinkerers to get at all of the knowledge absorbed by these devices — while step and sleep tracking is fun, there must be hundreds of untapped possibilities for these cheap, always-on accelerometers we’re buying.
Yikes. Giving up control of personal data about your physical self feels like one hell of a dragon for me – a deal-breaker, in fact. As soon as I read that, I check the Sleep Cycle app to check if I could retrieve my data. And, thankfully, it’s there and available to be e-mailed to me as a CSV file, if I want to push it into other systems. In fact, the data lives on my phone and not on a web service – it doesn’t make its way to the cloud unless I use the built-in integration with RunKeeper. Phew. I can carry on using it.
However, I’m now determined not to use any such service that doesn’t allow me access to the raw data. Miller identifies Fitbit as one service that does give you pretty free access to the data you generate yourself. Maybe I should create a belated New Year’s resolution for myself and order one of the new FitBit Flexes (pictured above)…
However, the dragon of personal data ownership is not going away any time fast. Perhaps the best, most agile companies, will use open access to your own data as a competitive advantage?