Data Privacy for Business and Individuals

Self Quantification

Self Quanti-what?? “Self Quantification” is a fancy way of saying “measuring and analyzing your life”. This is a huge trend in technology and it continues to grow. First we had machines that measured our data (step counters, heart monitors, sleep machines). Then we had applications that analyzed the data you entered (baby growth charts, running logs, calorie counters). Now we have devices that work with apps so you don’t need to do a thing! On doing my research I was surprised to learn that some people even consider this to be a lifestyle – the conference of Self Quantification took place in 2014  in Amsterdam.

Now what does this mean for you?

Quanitified self

It’s good for your health

The medical world is using self quantifying tools to measure their patients’ vitals, from blood sugar to heart anomalies. It is not only helping them monitor the patient’s illness, but in some cases they have used the data to diagnose a disease that had otherwise evaded them. Using new networks designed for medical professionals, doctors and researchers are able to share and compare their data to help others.

If you are trying to lose weight, studies have shown that the act of recording your food intake is often a big contributor in limiting the bad foods that you eat. Don’t feel like typing it in? There is a fork that will record all your eating habits for you. You can’t make this stuff up 🙂

For overall tracking, the two big players are FitBit and Jawbone UP. They will measure sleep, exercise and eating, plus help you set and reach goals.

Paying for your free app

Don’t want to pay for the hardware? You can always just use free software.  If you follow my blogs you may know what I will say next – nothing is free. How are you paying? With your information. When I was pregnant with my first, I signed up for a pregnancy tracker that allowed me to record all my weekly data including my weight, any symptoms I had, and results from my doctor’s appointments. In return it gave me weekly updates on where the fetus development should be and some analysis on my input data. I thought it was pretty cool for a free app. Meanwhile, the app was getting a goldmine of data! Women from all over were voluntarily inputing their data to be analyzed and charted and compared. I did not notice then, but I would have been seeing cleverly placed ads targeted at my stage of pregnancy or maybe even to the symptoms I had checked off. In some ways, targeted advertising is nicer than random ads because at least you are getting something you can use. Still, be aware that any tracker you use online could still be transmitting your data back to their servers. Typically they strip your name out to make it anonymous and thereby in compliance with terms and conditions.

Did you ‘Like’ this post yet?

There are a lot of great things about self quantification, but where I get concerned is when it allows you to feel badly about yourself. For instance, take social network ‘Likes’. It is one thing to post a picture for other people’s enjoyment but another to be able to gauge the impact of that picture by the number of ‘Likes’ it receives. Even worse to be able to measure against others. Remember what it was like to get a grade back in school on your paper? Now remember how it felt if you also knew what your friends got and your score was lower? Some may ask why the picture of their night out got only 20 ‘likes’ but their friend’s got 55? Why didn’t your last post get any likes at all? The ‘likes’ were intended to allow people to say ‘”I agree!” or “that’s awesome”. The lack of ‘likes’ gets interpreted as the opposite and that is not what they symbolize. It is hard not to compare when it is in black and white.

Same goes for tools that measure progress. Some people are inspired to work harder when they can see they did not meet their goal. Not me. I stopped tracking my exercises because I felt great when I exceeded my last workout but when I fell short it made me feel badly rather than pleased with the effort. To each his own in this regard.

GBU likes

In summary:

  • The Good: Trackers are advancing medical research and can be a great way to help you reach fitness or health goals.
  • The Bad: When you use applications that connect online, be aware that those applications are likely using your data. 
  • The Ugly: As nice as it is to get a reaffirmation from your numbers, make sure you do not allow them to discourage you.



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