Rise of the thermometers


Good news, everyone! According to a recent article in the New York Times, infections from COVID-19, including the most recent Omicron variant, seem to be on the way down. One of the ways they know this, according to the Times, is from a company named Kinsa in San Francisco that “tracks 2.5 million internet-connected thermometers across the country.” This company evidently uploads the temperatures of those using these thermometers, and “uses that data to estimate the percentage of Americans who have a fever every day. The declines over the past week have been sharp, which is a sign of Omicron’s retreat[.]”

 Now, we know what you’re thinking: you’re simply ecstatic of the idea that millions of thermometers are congregating in the cloud, sharing stories about how sick you are, passing them on to some well-intentioned company who promises not to pass along anything personal about you. (Well, most of you are ecstatic. Some, like Bob Mulligan of 1535 East Bishop Avenue, in Millinocket, Maine, seem to think there’s some kind of potential privacy issue here. But frankly, according to his Smart Refrigerator, ol’ Bob has been hitting the Miller Lite pretty heavily lately, so he can just prattle on, right?  And speaking of “heavy,” Bob could stand to lose a few pounds, according to his Qardio Base2 Smart Scale. So I guess what we’re getting at is, shut your noise-hole, Bob. Unless you want your Smart Toilet to start spilling the beans on your hemorrhoids). 

 Anyway, where were we? Oh right, the thermometers. The company, Kinsa, stresses in their privacy statement that medical data is anonymously aggregated, and that personal data is not sold to anyone. And the service they provide, tracking the spread of disease, sounds like a great idea. So Bob and all you privacy skeptics out there don’t have to worry about your personal health data being sold to third parties (which Kinsa admits “We’ve been approached many times to do this”), or the vast innumerable hackers, scammers, and script kiddies who are constantly trolling for insecure passwords and backdoors into that vast wasteland of unprotected devices in the Internet of things.  For now, all they’re going to do is sell advertising to companies (like Clorox) who target advertising to areas that appear to be experiencing surges in sickness. Which is a far cry from selling your specific data. Right, Alexa?

 “Right, Bob.”

 Thank you, ever-listening internet device.

 As we were saying, companies like Kinsa provide a valuable service and certainly the promise of buckets of money in an industry with haphazard regulatory oversight shouldn’t be a cause for concern. In fact…hey, your smart thermostat says you keep bumping up the temperature. Yeah, it is winter, but do you really need the house at 85 degrees? How sick are you?

 Wow, your Insignia HD Smart TV tells us you’ve been watching Friends for like two days straight, intermixed with the Book of Boba Fett and Disney movies. How long have you been under the weather? WHOA. According to your Fitbit Versa 3, your heart is really racing!

 Maybe it’s time for your smartphone, which has incidentally been uploading every picture on your phone to the Cloud Backup your provider has insisted is secure, to go ahead and make that appointment, how about it? We promise none of these things will make it to your insurance company. It’ll be our little secret, between you, Kinsa, your fridge, your toilet, your thermostat, your TV, and your watch. If we had lips, they’d be sealed.  But we don’t.

 And hey, Bob?  Yeah.  Your doorbell told Alexa it saw you get that package, so maybe don’t file the “Undelivered” package complaint, OK?


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