Fitbit Skin Rash Illuminating Technology Vulnerability

Fitbit Skin Rash Illuminating Technology Vulnerability

Fitbit’s latest product, the Fitbit Force, is now faced with a skin rash situation that is illuminating the potential vulnerability of wearable technology via Twitter and media reports. While it is unknown what percentage of users who have purchased the Fitbit Force have been affected, it is a reminder that technology brought to the consumer market, particularly with wearable technology, is not of entirely perfect design and it may bode well to exercise prudence.

Fitbit Force buyers who have come forward with reports of skin rashes which are illuminating the technology vulnerability behind the exploding trend of wearable devices. One gentleman noticed a rash had started developing approximately a month and a half after he started wearing the device on his wrist.

He recounted his experience to the Consumerist, where the rash began as “a red blotch under the device where the battery and charging port sits” and grew over time. He visited a nurse who diagnosed it as contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis typically will look like a burn, where skin will become red, sore and inflamed after direct contact with substances such as acids, alkaline materials and detergents. Allergic contact dermatitis is the result of increased sensitivity to substances or materials, such as nickel, rubber or latex, fragrances, and adhesives. There are some products which will only cause a reaction when the skin is exposed to light.

Other reports from users who have experienced the skin rash, such as Katy Crossen, had to take an oral steroid to counteract the rash. She is still concerned about the scarring though – while the blistering has subsided, “…it is still very red and a bit dry.”

According to ABC News in 2013, Fitbit held the lion’s share of the wearable fitness tracker market, leading at 68 percent.

While they have managed to win over the largest portion of the consumer market so far, the Fitbit has not been impervious to other technological vulnerabilities besides skin rashes.

Information Security – How Secure Is Your Data?

One consumer inadvertently tweeted amidst the skin rash commentary on Twitter, that her Fitbit information had been hacked:

Fitbit Skin Rash Illuminating Technology Vulnerability

Also it would not come as a surprise if others might have suspected or experienced it in the past as well.  A study released in 2013 proves the point that personal security is not the highest priority with regards to health monitoring tools.

Researchers from Florida International University methodically exploited the security weaknesses in Fitbit’s system, where everything from hijacking user accounts and accessing or manipulating their health data were exploited to win prizes and money.

In one case, the researchers injected 12.5 million steps into one account, allowing the account owner to receive a “Top Daily Step” badge. The real problem is that these virtual rewards can also correlate with real world financial rewards, such as gift cards and other points-based services.

“Kudos on the 30 minutes of sexual activity”

In another incident back in 2011, an avid Fitbit user noticed that through the social sharing function of Fitbit, there were about 200 Fitbit users’ sex activities that were showing up on Google search results. Sexual activity can be tracked and classified as a fitness activity, and range from the levels of passive, active, to difficult.

This error was quickly corrected however, with the company updating their new user default settings ‘private.’

While Fitbit has issued apologies to their customers for the current skin rash ordeal, this current chapter serves as an illuminating reminder that technology, while powerful, continues to have vulnerabilities that cannot be disregarded.

By Joscelyne Yu

US National Library of Medicine

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