Privacy implications of pet wearables 

Pet wearables have significant privacy implications for consumers. This research into the extent of data collected by pet wearables has led to a clear understanding that consumer pet wearables available on the market capture far more data of owners than actual pets, and potentially mislead consumers into underestimating this extent of data capture. Moreover, pet data descriptions are often vague and may understate their potential to indirectly identify their owners or third parties.

The billion-dollar pet industry is catching up on the wearables hype and getting involved in the wearables market – producing activity trackers, location trackers, and advanced health and sleep wearables to allow pet owners more insight into their beloved pets.

However, pet wearables are marketed to consumers focusing heavily on the pet as the user of the device, while making little mention of whether, and to what extent, owners will have to give up their personal data as well to use the accompanying software. Consumer’s desire to provide the best care for their pets combined with such marketing may lull them into a false sense of security by understating that they are the actual user of the product, and subsequently likely tracked as such.

Tracking the activity or location of pets is equally as sensitive as tracking users directly, as pets are typically around us. Access to pet activity data could be used to build profiles on pet owners, with implications ranging from burglars knowing when to approach a home, to insurance companies inferring health profiles of pet owners via their dog’s activity.

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