An Activity Tracker for the Privacy-Conscious

An Activity Tracker for the Privacy-Conscious

I have really wanted to get one of the new activity trackers that have recently become available. Between Stella walking duties and daily life in a walkable city, I imagined that I walk a relatively significant distance each day. I was curious just how much. Last year, I bought a $5 pedometer, but Stella chewed it up before I got into the hang of using it regularly. The wide array of wearable activity trackers attracted my attention because they are inconspicuous and capable of gathering a lot of data throughout the day. Unfortunately, every single activity tracker I researched (and I think I researched all of them- Fitbit, Polar Loop, Misfit Shine, Nike Fuelband, Garmin Vivofit, Jawbone, LG Lifeband, Spark) require the wearer to create an account in order to access the data that the device records. If I bought one of these trackers, I would have to create a mandatory account with the company, connect to the Internet, and upload my data from the device before being able to see it. In that process, all of my data would go to the company. And that is not ok.


I am extremely uncomfortable creating a 24/7, date- and time-stamped log of my physical activity and sending that information off to an unaccountable company. Although the companies that sell activity trackers are most likely to use the data for profit, they could also disclose that information to the government or allow it to be stolen. I am keenly aware that taking advantage of nearly all technology requires some privacy tradeoff. But for me, the cost of giving up control over very personal and detailed information does not outweigh the benefit of knowing how far I walk each day.


I have to assume that I am not alone in this calculation, but until I am able to find a product that lets me keep all of my data exclusively on my own computer or phone (let me know if you are aware of one!), I came up with my own solution. I bought a pedometer more advanced than my $5 version, one that personalizes its calculations based on height, weight, and stride length and stores 7 days worth of data. Then, I created an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my numbers. I even set the spreadsheet up to automatically chart my data on colorful graphs! Here’s the file you can download and use yourself 🙂

There are some obvious drawbacks to using a pedometer instead of a wearable activity tracker- it doesn’t log my activity at all hours of the day, and it can be challenging to figure out how to wear the pedometer with some outfits. I also have to log my data manually, but the memory function and relatively few data points keeps that from feeling burdensome. Even with these drawbacks, I am grateful not to worry that an unaccountable company is collecting my data on a very granular level.

So tell me, do you use an activity tracker and love it, have a different interpretation of the privacy scale, or have another low-tech way to track your activity?

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An Activity Tracker for the Privacy-Conscious — 5 Comments

  1. Thank you for this! I currently wear a Fitbit One, and it bothers me that I have to pay for my data. I haven’t been able to find any information on an activity monitor that doesn’t rely on proprietary software. I’m thinking about falling back on a pedometer and Excel spreadsheet. Not as convenient as syncing a device over bluetooth, but at least I know I have control over the information.

  2. I too am concerned and want to just upload my data to my local PC. It’s amazing how people don’t even seem to care about this issue. This page is the only one that turned up during my search to actually address the issue. If anyone else stumbles on this page and knows of one that doesn’t require the data to be uploaded to the internet please let us know! I was reading somewhere that they can even tell when you’re having sex from the data! Does this sound like the kind of data you want to share?!

  3. I almost went into this whole. I misplaced my Polar FT7 and couldn’t find it. So, I started looking for a fitness tracker and lo… what I found was that every single device not only collects data, which would have been fine by itself, but essentially insists/prompts/nags that you must “sync” your data with your phone app that in-turn will upload the data to the tracker’s website. After some deliberation, I gave up the tracker search and luckily found my Polar FT7 as well (It was sitting on my bike’s handle).

    Rant begin…

    There’s a choice here. Do you really need to track your daily activities continuously? The world ran absolutely fine without fitness trackers. I only wear the FT7 with a chest strap while I’m working out. Rest of the day, I never had a need to track how many steps I walked. This is a totally unnecessary information and is an example of FOMO.

    …Rant end 🙂

  4. Wow, been searching the internet for two hours before I found this site! Just the spreadsheet I need. And for the same reasons you mention! Love you!


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