Wearable devices: must respect users' freedoms according to FSF

Users can now choose from a large number of wearable devices. Also known as wearable, are electronic devices designed to be worn directly on the body or integrated into clothing. They offer a number of useful features for monitoringpersonal care, health and well-being.

Wearable devices can take on various shapes and sizes: think of smartwatches, fitness bracelets, smart glasses, implantable devices. Without immediately thinking about chips under the skin, many products applied externally to the body can include a wide range of sensors to collect data on physical activities, heart rate, sleep, stress level and much more. This data is usually synchronized and analyzed via app or dedicated software on smartphones and computers.

FSF suggests the development of wearable devices that respect privacy and fundamental freedoms

Free Software Foundation (FSF), a non-profit organization founded in 1985 by Richard Stallman, promotes user freedom in the world of software, focusing on the importance of the use of free software. FSF recently celebrated the first 40 years of the GNU system and free software and continues to this day to work to defend and promote the principles of free softwarewhich include the freedom of users to run, copy, distribute, study, modify and improve programs.

The foundation has no ambition to move away from the use of proprietary software all devices available on the market today. It would be an almost impossible undertaking, perhaps. If anything, the advice might be to avoid purchasing and using wearable devices that rely on services cloud little known, which do not promptly clarify the methods of processing personal data, which transfer information outside the borders of the European Union (perhaps even without using forms of cryptographic protection).

However, FSF focuses on the software that manages medical devices. According to the foundation, in fact, the software that manages this particular category of products should always respect freedoms of users.

Devices essential for health must use free software

In its review, FSF notes that today there are several cases in which hearing aids, insulin pumps, bionic eyes and pacemakers show serious problems due to the use of proprietary software. These cases highlight how dependence on proprietary software can leave users completely helpless in the face of malfunctions, the foundation explains.

For example, the app is mentioned LibreLink used to monitor blood sugar levels. So many users depended on this app to monitor their glucose levels, and an update to the app suddenly caused the malfunction of the same, leaving users without a reliable way to monitor a vital parameter.

The FSF argues that proprietary software makes users “subservient” to the companies that produce it, depriving them of the freedom to examine, modify and improve the software according to their needs. And reference is also made to the case of operating system updates Apple iOS which have caused connectivity problems between hearing aids and iPhones, leaving users at the mercy of manufacturers to resolve such inconveniences.

What are the user-friendly solutions for wearable devices?

“Ad hoc” legislation, again according to FSF, would not be useful in solving these problems. Indeed, we add, certain slightly too extremist stances that are emerging on European soil could even endanger open source programs and the world of free software.

Again according to FSF, the solution must instead be found in the unreserved support of free software. On the other hand, some projects already exist for some types of medical devices. The foundation cites software as an example Ear-drum for hearing aids e OpenAPS which manages insulin pumps. The situation is more complicated, however, in the case of pacemakers which do not yet see community support.


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