This month, we're featuring wearable technology as our Emerging Ethical Dilemma and Policy Issues in Science and Technology which earned around 5% of the total votes. Below we've provided more information about this topic to serve as a resource to students, educators, journalists, policy makers, and concerned citizens.

Wearable technology

Wearable technology

We are currently attached to (literally and figuratively) multiple technologies that monitor our behaviors. The fitness tracking craze has led to the development of dozens of bracelets and clip-on devices that monitor steps taken, activity levels, heart rate, etc, not to mention the advent of organic electronics that can be layered, printed, painted, or grown on human skin. Google is teaming up with Novartis to create a contact lens that monitors blood sugar levels in diabetics and sends the information to healthcare providers. Combine that with Google Glass and the ability to search the Internet for people while you look straight at them and you see that we’re already encountering social issues that need to be addressed. The new wave of wearable technology will allow users to photograph or record everything they see. It could even allow parents to view what their children are seeing in real time. Employers are experimenting with devices that track (volunteer) employees' movements, tone of voice, and even posture. For now, only the aggregate data is being collected and analyzed to help employers understand the average workday and how employees relate to each other. But could an employer require their workers to wear devices that monitor how they speak, what they eat, when they take a break, how stressed they get during a task, and then punish or reward them for good or bad data? Wearables have the potential to educate us, protect our health, as well as violate our privacy in any number of ways.

Seven in ten U.S. adults track a health indicator for themselves or for a loved one (Pew Research Center, 2013), so let's think about the implications. 

Resources:

Wearable tech at work

A direct line to your doctor, for better or worse

Legal and privacy concerns