Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

Balance and Boundaries in Lifelogging

Lifelogging is a truly unique tool : it enables users to capture all the data that they want to, and they can accordingly share it with experts to get relevant advice, or they can share it with communities focused on the Quantified Self and Lifelogging. But it also raises the important question, which is often sidelined when the uses are considered : what are the boundaries and discretions to be followed?

To use the much clichéd adage in this regard, with great power comes great responsibility. So in this article, I will be focusing on the other important aspect of Lifelogging: Where does data collection need to draw a line as far as the legislations or the human psychology is concerned.

 

LIFELOGGING: FUNDAMENTALS

Simply put, Lifelogging involves the continuous collection of data over a long period of time, and aggregating it together in the form of quantifiable numbers. When Lifelogging gets the element of context incorporated within, it becomes even more intelligent and results in the delivery of Qualitative information to the user.

The statistics which are measured can range over a wide array of variables: from health statistics such as heart beat and blood pressure, to communication data, to even obscure data such as dreams. Whatever information the user needs to record, he/she can do so with the help of Lifelogging devices, and can see an informative result later on.

emberify_lifelogging_fundamental_blocks

Sensors are the data collection instruments, which are responsible for measuring the minute changes in the variable which the user wants to measure. The data collected is processed by complex algorithms and APIs, and then it goes to aggregator services – which are usually cloud based – and they provide the needed conclusions and results to the user.

Very straightforward, and very useful. But where does it meet its limits?

LEGAL CONSTRAINTS

From a manufacturer’s point of view, Lifelogging is a complex paradox. On the one hand, you are developing applications and/or devices which will record the user’s every move, every change in stimuli. And on the other hand, are the legal obligations that come to the fore.

Privacy laws play a major contributing factor in this regard, and in this day and age of increasing popularity of social media, it is actually quite vital to keep privacy concerns in mind. Think of it this way: People mind if you take their photos without their consent, so technically the same should apply to recording data from an user.

In fact, here is a statistic showing the inclination of users towards having privacy settings in their social media.

emberify_usage_of_privacy_Settings
(Data Source: Statista)

Also, a survey was conducted in April 2014 by Statista in U.K. and U.S. customers. According to this survey, 80% of the respondents believed digital privacy to be a thing of the past.

LOOPHOLE VISIBLE?

One might say that the user is choosing the device, and is choosing what data needs to be gathered. But some device manufacturers clearly state in their terms and conditions that their data may be shared.

In fact, here is a snapshot from Fitbit’s terms and conditions. They do state that they don’t willingly share the user information with other parties, however they don’t rule out a possibility of not sharing either.

emberify_fitbit_Terms_and_Conditions
(Source: fitbit.com/privacy)

Unsurprisingly enough, most Lifelogging device manufacturers follow similar norms when it comes to recording data.

Now why is this relevant? Corporations that are developing on the Lifelogging platform do so while keeping all legal actions and activities in mind, and are ultimately developing applications and devices which will help Lifeloggers. However, this is just a loophole which will have to be considered : specially if you’re one of those who holds personal data as paramount.

THE REQUIREMENT OF BOUNDARIES

Moving on, there’s the aspect of boundaries. This is mainly a psychological aspect of the concept of Lifelogging, and is needed to make sure Lifeloggers don’t go overboard with their monitoring routines.

There are quite a few extreme cases of biohacking, and using data in minute information to monitor daily statistics. Biohackers depend upon precise mixtures of foods and ingredients in diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and often this act of monitoring becomes a psychological disorder.

emberify_monitoring_health

Conditions such as Orthoxia Nervosa are bound to develop in Lifeloggers if they take their monitoring habits to the extreme. The condition develops in people who obsess too much over what they are eating in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and this causes physical and psychological problems. Orthoxia Nervosa is quite a serious issue, and needs to be treated with professional medical assistance.

More than specific conditions, it is the constant anxiety which might develop in Lifeloggers. Did I meet the goals set? Did I eat right? What if I’m unable to improve? Such questions can often plague the hardcore Lifeloggers who are bombarded with so much information that they are unable to process things clearly and lose their calm.

THE NEED OF THE HOUR

BALANCE

Lifeloggers need to ascertain what kind of information they would like to record religiously, and be prepared to analyse the readings based on the stimuli. They need to take things one step at a time, and not get overly engrossed in their Lifelogging instruments or the platforms supporting Lifelogging devices.

Regarding the legal constraints, in a way it is actually beneficial, since there is a seamless evidence of a user’s daily activities which can actually help in saving lives when medical emergencies arise.

All in all, when Lifelogging crosses a limit, it can often harm, rather than help, the user. It is imperative that the user understand that like all tools, Lifelogging is an essential one only if the user is able to properly comprehend the information that is presented.

Balance and boundaries are essential to let the user know that he/she is still in control, for only then can Lifelogging be truly beneficial!

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