Don’t worry if you draw a blank when I say “Giovanni Buttarelli.” He’s the data protection "watchdog" for the EU. Unless you follow privacy conversations, you won’t know GB. But he set out his agenda at a recent conference. It included hands-off approaches to health information. And while this isn’t the EU, we might want to have a think how deeply we’re dipping into health information through fitness media. We’ve been treating health information as entertainment thus far. It may not be a goldmine forever, free of data protection.
Nike+ successfully transformed a user platform into an entertainment sports network essentially, featuring its own users. Challenge-based social networking apps like Snowbuddy and Strava only reinforce this idea that there is a media ecosystem to be created out of fitness users.
The flip side of using fitness platforms as entertainment is the fact that some platforms are designed to pull in very personal data. Currently everything from geo to bio may be in those data streams. How much of that may be classified "sensitive" someday? There’s a real possibility that the data privacy climate in the U.S. may begin to mirror the climate in the EU. Or that data protection differences from country to country could restrict a brand from creating a seamless global network of fitness users.
Health information rarely makes its way on to the media radar as a media conversation, yet media is deep in the health information space with these fitness networks. Wearables and body-enabled Internet of Things devices should only increase the need to think through the issue of how we take and use health data in the media space. Right now fitness data is making its way into the world as data-driven entertainment, like this great creative from Nike. But it’s the Wild West currently in terms of data protection — the climate will change just like the Wild West did, once it was finally tamed.