Facebook Aims to Track Your Body Through a Smartwatch

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Social media giant Facebook is planning to release its own smartwatch in the future. The smartwatch will collect biometric data from users, adding new sets of data to the platform’s store of personal information

Social media giant Facebook is planning to release its smartwatch in the near future. The smartwatch will collect biometric data from users, adding new data sets to the platform’s store of personal information.

The planned smartwatch will likely operate on Android. The company is also developing its operating system that might soon be integrated into future smartwatch versions, replacing the Android OS.

The smartwatch will allow users to connect to other people through Facebook’s messaging apps. Integrated into the smartwatch are Health and fitness apps from brands like Peloton. The watch will not need to be paired with a smartphone to access the internet. Instead, internet access will be through a cellular connection. Facebook’s smartwatch will hit shelves by next year.

The main challenge Facebook faces is getting regulatory approval. For instance, Google’s recent acquisition of Fitbit is under investigation by the Department of Justice (DoJ) over concerns that it might stifle competition in the market. Google could limit Android OS’s functionalities on other wearables now that it has its product in the niche market. To ease authorities’ concerns, Google declared that it would continue licensing public APIs so that other wearables can continue running Android OS.

Facebook has plans to launch many wearable tech products in the near future. Image: pixabayCC0.1.0

There are also privacy concerns. Google has promised that it will not use health data collected from wearable tech for its advertising business. In addition to the DoJ, regulators from Australia are also looking into the deal. Once Facebook enters the wearable market, similar concerns will inevitably arise, especially using health data for advertisement. Suppose regulators do not approve of Google’s acquisition of Fitbit or add special restrictions on how the search giant uses Fitbit data. In that case, Facebook’s planned smartwatch will be subject to the same limitations. 

AR Smart glasses

In addition to smartwatches, Facebook is planning to launch many other hardware products as well. Its AR smart glasses, for example, are expected to be released later this year. Developed in partnership with Luxottica Group SpA and Ray-Ban, the glasses will not overlay digital objects into the real world view, a staple of AR. 

“These are certainly connected glasses. They are certainly providing a lot of functionality, [but] we’re being quite coy about which functionality precisely we are providing… We’re excited about it, but we don’t want to over-hype it. We’re not even calling it augmented reality. We’re just calling it ‘smart glasses,’” hardware chief Andrew Bosworth told Bloomberg.

Smartwatch hacking vulnerability

Smartwatches seem to be particularly susceptible to hacking due to motion sensors in their hardware. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that hackers can access search queries, emails, and confidential information through “data leaks” from the device’s motion sensors.

Romit Roy Choudhury, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois, told the Economic Times:

“Sensor data from wearable devices will clearly be a double-edged sword… While the device’s contact with the human body will offer invaluable insights into human health and context, it will also make way for deeper violation of human privacy… The core challenge is in characterizing what can or cannot be inferred from sensor data and the MoLe project is one example along this direction.”

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