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What Google’s renewed interest in Wear OS and its Fitbit acquisition mean for you and your data

We know that Google has major plans for Wear OS and at some point – possibly in the near future – is rumored to release a “Pixel Watch”. Interestingly, it has neglected its watch operating system up until now, and to the disappointment of many, has only pushed a few updates to it over years past. While those updates were interesting and featured things like new app tiles and experiences, Wear OS was all but dead thanks to the battery problem. In fact, it powered only 3% of smartwatches shipped last year – ouch!

Regardless, it seems as though Google has a renewed interest in the valuable space on your wrist and that’s likely due to its Fitbit acquisition. In its most recent update, it’s added its popular Gboard as a primary means of text input. This means that you can now type, voice type, and send emoji using a faster, more robust keyboard than the one the OS previously featured.

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Replying to texts, searching for new apps on the Play Store, and entering passwords should now be a breeze. Supporting multiple input methods like QWERTY, gesture input, and voice allow you to interact with your watch in a hands-free or nearly hands-free way. Enhanced suggestions and corrections mean that spelling things out quickly with swipe will suck a bit less, and multiple language support allows you to switch between keyboards in just a few taps so that you can communicate however you want to.

Tech is not all fun and games

Fantastic! This is truly great news, but why now? Let’s step back and ask a much more broad question – why is Google reviving its watch efforts after they were all but dead in the water? According to the quote below, found in their official Wear OS Support article for the update, they have more to share throughout the rest of the year. While we don’t yet know what that may entail, I do know this – its Fitbit acquisition was smart, and brings the company much closer to your deeply valuable and personal life information. Actually, some would say it’s dangerously close.

We’re super excited to bring this update to the Wear OS Community in the coming days. We can’t wait to share what more is in store for Wear OS by Google in 2021!

Google Wear OS Support

It’s no secret to anyone who’s paying an ounce of information that Google’s interest in your health information runs deep. Not only has it fired up and re-created Google Health, but Alphabet, its parent company, is the proud owner of Verily, a life sciences company responsible for many incredible innovations. Additionally, it’s made several partnerships with health professionals and institutions to bring accurate and useful vaccination and health information to Youtube, Search, and Maps since the pandemic began.

If Google, or more specifically, Alphabet, can own a permanent space on your body, then it owns the most valuable data of all. Some would say that we are our bodies, and even if that’s not entirely true, you can’t argue that our increasing desire to log our fitness and nutrition information and overall just become more healthy and self-aware beings is unexplored territory, and most certainly a very sought after Moreover, such territory is very much like Antarctica – no one really owns it, but it’s largely sought after, and everyone wants to explore it.

Even we don’t own our bodies – we’re constantly in search of better ways to become more in control of what we put into them and how we treat them. In recent years, technology and app experiences have attempted to fill such a gap in our understanding and control, and it’s proven to be a gold mine for tech companies and corporations. You see, we’ll do anything to supplement what we lack, and to become better, faster, and stronger, and we’re dangerously susceptible to advertising – Google’s modus operandi.

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The company states that it’s not going to use your Fitbit data to serve you ads, but the best thing it can do is to appeal to the slippery slope method. Yes, Fitbit’s privacy policy prohibits the sharing of any identifiable information so that insurance companies can’t deny patients health coverage or charge them more money, but the jury is out on whether or not even anonymous information can be re-identifiable with some work. I have no doubt that the folks at Google want to change the world for the better – after all, they’re not evil, but I am concerned that as we give up more privacy in exchange for convenience, we may one day allow the company to get too close by allowing them access to the most personal and data-rich part of our lives – our bodies.

Ultimately, the Fitbit acquisition means that Google is no longer responsible for directly building out a platform that must succeed – Fitbit is already successful, and now they own it. Similarly, the brand itself is already a household name, and so far, many millions of people and families trust it. Google is stepping into such a burden of responsibility that even I, in my wildest dreams, wouldn’t want to be in charge of balancing. The potential for corruption and screw-ups is just too grand.

With that being said, I don’t believe we should avoid such a frontier for these reasons – I just want to encourage you all to be wary, constantly in charge of your own data and who you share it with, and be hyper-aware of the checks and balances we can implement and uphold in order to keep companies like Google responsible every step of the way. Since it is just a machine made up of people who are overall trying to make the world a better place, I have no doubt that it will agree with these sentiments and welcome a constant watchful eye over its future developments. Google does provide extensive tools for managing your privacy and data, and it’s been pressed hard by congress to improve them, but that doesn’t mean that we should relax. This shared relationship needs to remain a living, breathing dialogue between those providing the data, and those providing the technology to make sense of it because ultimately, that is the only right way forward.

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Big tech like Google and Microsoft may be well-oiled, unstoppable ideas, and are certainly perceived as faceless, darkened heads on a screenbut the fact is that they’re comprised of human beings – just like you or me – who are trying to leave their mark on the world in a meaningful way by creating something awesome and innovating to solve a problem while feeding their families and keeping the lights on.

Edge, Chrome, and the user between

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