The real beneficiaries of self-tracking

In the research conducted by Dewart explores the effect self-tracking has and how not only does it make people compete in a different way but also shows self-tracking as a means for companies to take advantage of. As @mark mentioned in his post, through technology, companies are targeting not only the physical aspect but also the psychological aspect of their workers or targets. I believe that self-tracking technology is a type of competition aimed towards benefiting the companies behind it rather than the user themselves 

Just as mentioned within Dewart’s paper, self-tracking can come in many forms such as diaries or logs but the most common one we see with our technology today is apps designed to promote fitness and healthy lifestyle to its users. These type of self-tracking might seem beneficial at first, with the priority of keeping healthy in mind, these apps serve as a tool as an attempt to make getting healthy more accessible and easier for the majority of the population. There is often a catch to free things and self-tracking services are no exception. While most of them are offered as a free app with no catch and guarantees privacy to a person’s individual data, many of the data acquired ,while anonymous, are still sent to companies that have rights towards the free apps. This creates a situation where people are voluntarily providing labour for free for the companies which then in turn creates a gray area with taxes and laws regarding this type of problem. Competition is also a problem with the spread of the data among companies. It tells companies what consumer might potentially want which companies a direction to advertise towards while having to pay close no none investment in return if the app is successful in collecting data. 

To round up, self-tracking through technological apps provides competition towards self-improvement. This is beneficial towards the consumers but in fact the biggest beneficiaries from this competition is the companies behind the technology. By using the app, companies gain free data from the usage of their technology which in term provides them with capital and advantages without the users knowing. Self-tracking via the usage of apps might be convenient for the users but in the end the ones who will reap a bigger benefit will be the companies utilizing the data acquired. 

image link: https://www.healthcaredailyonline.com/fitness-apps-popular-to-improve-health-fitness/

8 Comments

  1. This argument has a very nice ring to it however I feel like one thing that could have been clarified more was how those companies can turn personal information into a consumable product and even if so, why exactly should that be worrying.

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  2. Hi there! I enjoyed reading your response. However in response to your comment about self-tracking apps benefitting companies rather than the individual users themselves, do you not think that these apps are motivating individuals to be the best version of themselves? If used properly and faithfully, the individual can benefit their own health and well-being.

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  3. @nietzschey Thank you for your comment! Information is a necessity that will let companies know where their users demand lies. Using fitness apps as an example; let’s say the number of people working out at night is significantly higher than people working out in the afternoon. That gives the companies something to focus on. Without this information, companies might be prone to think that there are more people exercising in the afternoon and possibly comes up with sports sunglasses or hats to accompany their exercise in the heat. However with the information that there are more people working out at night they can eliminate the prior option and focus on coming up with a product that will give their users energy to exercise after a long day at work or school. While it is not a worrying problem as both sides of the coin benefits from it but from the users perspective it is used as a tool to keep fit and from the companies perspective it is used as a tool to gain information which will provide them an advantage over those that don’t have access to the information. Both sides’ objective is not aligned and I think the users could be potentially taking advantage of without them knowing.

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  4. @pb5535 Thank you for your response! As I mentioned above the apps makes keeping a healthy lifestyle easy but that is precisely the hook or tradeoff of self-tracking through the usage of apps. What I am suggesting is both sides benefit from the app but in terms of the one who benefits more remains to be the companies in charge because they are essentially getting free data from the users and with the data they can potentially make more profit off of it without the users’ realization.

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  5. Thank you for response. You said there is no such thing as ‘free’ things without a catch, and talked about how this is really a labour for the companies.. however, we see certain instances where you pay for your stuff like in-app purchases or just paid apps in general, and still we see data being collected by the companies. What do you think about that?

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  6. Great post! I also believe that self-tracking technology is a one type of method that the firms are trying to extract data from the users to extract their surplus (which could be transformed into marketing value). However, I believe this is a fair mechanism as users are provided with services that could help them to self-improve by simply using such apps. Firms do extract data from the users and transforms into marketing value, however, I don’t see this action as something FREE since the firms constantly strive their best to provide the better services to the users.

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  7. @tose1028 Thank you for your reply! I think for instances where purchase is an option or necessary for the usage of the app is actually better because it creates a barrier for purchase and will set a limit on the amount people that can access the app as suppose to the app being free and accessible for everyone. As for the data being collected on paid apps, I think the problem is the same as free apps in the sense that there is a profit that is being made secretly. No matter if the app is free or paid, the problem of data collection still exists but for paid apps, the number of people affected might be significantly less because of the purchase barrier.

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  8. @jhk26 Thank you for your insightful insert! I agree that both sides of the coin have something to gain from, but the main problem that makes this significantly more beneficial for the companies is the monetary value they can gain from the data collected. The consumers who utilize fitness apps get a healthy lifestyle in return while the companies make money from their healthy lifestyle, the monetary value does not balance out and that is why I think the companies are the real beneficiaries coming out from this.

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