Part Five// Smart Watches, Wearables, and That Nasty Data Rash

Part Five// Smart Watches, Wearables, and That Nasty Data Rash

da•ta rash \ˈdātə ˈrash\, n. an irritating or unsightly eruption of information on the wrist or other site of wearable technology.

We find the idea of data rash to be extremely compelling, so we’re featuring a series of posts in which IoT usability expert (and our emerging platforms advisor) Josh Clark dives into the idea. This is post 5 of 6.

When I talk to people about a sensor-laden future full of smart objects, the topic is greeted with equal parts excitement and dread. The dread comes from several creepy prospects: sensors everywhere (including our bodies) might create a culture of constant surveillance; our data might be used and seen in ways we don’t understand or control; and we might forfeit agency over our environments to “smart” devices that aren’t quite smart enough, buffeting us with dubious decisions.

These fears—the staples of every dystopian sci-fi movie—are about loss of control. They rail against a data environment so polluted that we no longer know how our personal information will be used or how machines might impose themselves on us.

As we design the personal services and devices that respond to the individual it’s important that we design first and foremost for the individual. Your data—and especially your identity—should be yours and yours first. You should have confidence that your personal gadgets and services operate in your interest, and not solely in the ambiguous interest of the megacorp that created them.

Services should be designed as opt-in, not opt-out. You decide which service gets access to your identity, and the off switch should be obvious and available. Wearables maven Liza Kindred [Editor’s note: Yes, our founder!] suggests that services should have “nutrition labels” that clearly identify the information that they’ll use, and how they’ll use it. Who gets your data? How much of it, and for how long? Are they allowed to compare it with other people’s info? Can you make the data self-destruct? All of those decisions should be in your easy understanding and control as the person who’s making data or identity available.

For our last post, we’ll wrap up this series by discussing how wearables should design to amplify our humanity. You can read the article in it’s entirety here.

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