Fitness Tracker Information and Privacy Management: Empirical Study

Published December 2, 2021

One in four Americans uses a device or an app to track their fitness-related activities.

Fitness trackers are wearable smart devices that collect and manage fitness-related data. The wearable devices help individuals monitor and track fitness-related activities such as distance-walked, sleep quality, and calories intake. Fitness trackers are usually connected to a mobile application which can also work as a standalone app. Fitness trackers have become very popular in recent years, about one in four Americans utilize wearable smart fitness devices and/or a fitness tracker mobile app. Specifically, millennials have been seeking a healthier lifestyle which motivated the success of fitness trackers and apps. The devices collect important data of individuals' daily activities in various areas. As of now, the data is used by the individuals to help make better decisions related to their fitness and lifestyle. However, individuals are not health experts. Thus, sharing the data with healthcare experts could benefit the individual and society at large. The data could allow doctors to detect health problems early on and could also help them conduct research that benefits the general population.

However, sharing detailed personal fitness-related information comes with risks related to privacy and security. Incidents of data breaches and cybercrimes have been rising in recent years. This could influence individuals to choose privacy and security over fitness and health. Thus, the study is motivated by finding options to increase willingness to share fitness information. This study explores the effect of giving users granular privacy control on their willingness to share fitness information. The conceptual model is motivated by the communication privacy management theory and the privacy calculus model. Privacy calculus theory argues that individuals weigh benefits and risks when making decisions related to sharing personal information. This paper finds that both risk and benefits have a significant influence on the intention to share fitness data. However, the benefits outweigh the risks in this sample and context. Another key finding of this study is that granting users granular privacy control could motivate them to share their fitness tracker information.