• Amazon’s new Halo Rise alarm clock tracks your sleep patterns to improve the quality of your snoozes. 
  • Some experts say you are giving up too much personal information when using the Rise. 
  • There are steps you can take to help ensure your privacy with sleep trackers.

Someone sleeping in a bed wearing a smart watch with a smartphone on the mattress beside them.

Amazon wants to monitor your sleep, but you might be giving up some privacy as a tradeoff. 

The new $140 Halo Rise is a ring-shaped alarm clock with a built-in sleep tracker. Amazon says the gadget can help improve your sleep. Some experts say that giving up your personal information might not be worth the risk. 

“Sleeptrackers could be useful tools—if their accuracy can be proven—but they come with a host of medical privacy implications,” Marco Bellin, the CEO of the cybersecurity firm Datacappy, told Lifewire in an email interview. “HIPPA regulations exist to preserve the privacy of your medical records, but they don’t apply to the data Big Tech gleans from its devices monitoring your breathing, heart rate, and sleep patterns. There are no assurances that Big Tech will use that data to your benefit.”

Rise and Shine

The Halo Rise tracks your sleep using contactless, low-energy sensors and machine learning to monitor respiration and movement patterns. Once you wake, you receive a sleep summary, including a graph showing time spent in each sleep phase, including REM and deep sleep, along with a sleep score and information about your sleep environment.

“Quality sleep is an incredibly important factor in our overall health and well-being. In today’s busy world, getting more and better sleep is one of the areas that customers ask us about the most, which is why we’re tackling sleep head-on,” Melissa Cha, vice president of Amazon Smart Home and Health, said in a news release. “Halo Rise is designed to work intelligently in the background and give you an entirely new and effortless way to manage your sleep and achieve sleep-life harmony.”

But Patricia Thaine, CEO of Private AI, a company that detects and redacts PII (personally identifiable information), said in an email interview that there are risks involved in giving Amazon your sleep information through the Halo Rise. 

"Sleep tracking devices are no different than other wearables like fitness trackers. They track personal details such as REM sleep, oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing patterns," Thaine added. "And because they are connected to the internet, malicious actors who hack into the tracker will have access to this information. Worse yet, they may be able to use the tracker to record what people are saying or doing in their bedrooms through the app."

Thaine said Amazon might not be doing enough to keep your sleep data safe with the Rise.   While user data may not be sold to third parties, it can still be used internally within Amazon for targeted marketing and to train their AI models, for example, Thaine added. 

Bellin said there are no assurances that Amazon will use your data to your benefit. When a sleep tracker "learns" that you regularly wake up at 2 a.m., whether due to insomnia or to use the bathroom, it could use that information to tailor the ads you see when you pick up your phone, he added. 

"Amazon will have a clear understanding of what you're likely to click on at night and how that differs from your daytime choices," Bellin said. "Most of us don't make our best decisions in the middle of the night. Do we want Amazon's AI and advertising teams involved?"

The Amazon Halo band sitting next to a smart phone with the Halo app displayed on the screen.

Keeping Your Sleep Data Safe

If you buy the Halo Rise or another sleep tracker, there are things you can do to keep your information private. Matt Payne, the CEO of Width.ai, a machine learning consulting firm, said in an email that you should read the terms of service before signing up for an account with a sleep-tracking app or device. 

"Many companies outline how they use user data in these agreements, so it's important to understand exactly what you're agreeing to when signing up," he added. "Make sure you understand the device's data collection and storage policies." 

Payne said that many vendors collect personal information like heart rate and sleeping patterns without informing their customers or seeking permission. Before purchasing a sleep tracker, research the vendor's data policy thoroughly so that you know precisely how your data will be used and stored. Also, ensure that two-factor authentication is enabled on your account to add another layer of security against potential breaches or hackers accessing your data without permission. 

"Finally, review the security settings on your device to ensure that it is configured correctly for maximum protection of your information," Payne said. "Take advantage of any privacy settings available in the app or device itself."

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