On this installment of What Does The Internet Know About Me?, Emma McGowan takes a closer look at what data her Oura Ring is tracking.
When my partner got anOura — which is a fitness tracker that looks like a very chunky wedding band — I teased him and called him a cyborg. And, to be fair, this was the third fitness tracker he’d added to his body in under a year’s time. (What can I say? He likes gadgets.)
But as my Fitbit started to wear out — and we started going out again, post-vaccination — the simple design of the Oura became more appealing. You can’t tell it’s a fitness tracker by glancing at it, making it easier to wear when I’m dressed up. I considered anApple Watch, which also has a nice design, but I didn’t want all of the bells and whistles. So I decided to give Oura a try.
Unlike other fitness trackers, the Oura’s main focus is on my “readiness,” which they determine by combining information about my heart rate, body temperature, activity information, and sleep data. It’s not as good as the Fitbit at automatically detecting and inputting workouts but, as my partner points out, none of these tools are exactly perfect when it comes to that. It gives a “Readiness Score” every day and recommends an activity level based on their composite.
Kind of cool right? It’s not about calorie tracking (although there is a calorie tracker) or food logging or calories burned. I might be getting a little bit California-woo-woo, but it seems like a more holistic approach to fitness tracking.
In simpler terms, though, the Oura tracks:
Sleep phases (deep, light, REM, awake)
Activity levels throughout the day
Body mass index (calculated based on height and weight)
Birth date and year
Height and weight
Notes and tags
And on a technical level, it tracks:
IP address and high-level location
User ID (randomly generated)
Metadata regarding app use
What does Oura do with my data?
The primary thing Oura does with my data is give it back to me. I’m still pretty new to this device, but so far it feels like a less intrusive, potentially less obsession-inducing fitness tracker than the Fitbit. It also doesn’t integrate to many other services, which was annoying at first but now feels kind of like a blessing. Remember: the more third party services you connect to any device or tracker, the more your data is spread out, the more likely it is to be compromised or used to serve you ads.
The only mention of using data for advertising is that they might “show or send you advertisements within the app or by using push notifications,” with permission. They also say they “will never use your health-related data for advertising without your explicit consent.”
And if I were in the EU — which, I’d note, Oura is (they’re a Finnish company) — I would be covered by the GDPR and would have the rights given under that law, including the rights to access, withdraw, correct, erase, object to, and restrict the processing of my data. Oura also wants EU users to know that they primarily transfer personal data within the European Economic Area, but might sometimes transfer outside the EU.
Is Oura worth it? Are the privacy tradeoffs justified?
Plus, it’s not ugly. Which, let’s be real, seals the deal for this one.