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Wearable Gadgets Portend Vast Health, Research, and Privacy Consequences

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Larry Smarr, a computer scientist at the University of California at San Diego, tracks his biometric data, seen on charts behind him.

The growing availability of technology to monitor one's body has its advocates and critics.

Credit: Earnie Grafton/The Washington Post

In only the last few years, the miniaturization of technology and the proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones has resulted in a wave of new devices that provide the average person with unprecedented access to quantifiable information about their bodies.

The boom in fitness trackers and other personal diagnostic devices has fostered a new movement of people who obsessively log their health information in hopes of optimizing their bodies and extending their lives.

A new wave of even more advanced devices is on the horizon, featuring everything from devices that can track behavior for signs of mental illness to tiny devices that will float through the bloodstream to collect data.

Although this technology and the lifestyle it has created have staunch advocates, there also are critics. Some scientists say that although health-tracking technologies have great value to medicine, the ability to track their health in minute detail is likely only of limited value to the average person. Others warn the technology is moving faster than the law and regulation, creating great uncertainty about the privacy of the health data collected by these devices, and who, if anyone, has the authority to oversee their safety.

From The Washington Post
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