These mood trackers log your voice, skin, brain waves, and more

Privacy news
3 mins
Three emojis showing emotions.

Wearable technology that keeps us in touch with our physical well-being isn’t new in the market. From pioneer Fitbit to Apple smartwatches and smart ring Oura, health-tech devices have allowed us unprecedented and instantaneous access to information on how our body behaves—our sleep quality, activity levels, heart rate, and more.

Recently, the health-tech arena has broadened, allowing you to monitor not only your physical health but also your mental well-being. Tech gadget providers have now upped the game to offer real-time insight into your mental state and initiate interventions for signs of emotional distress.

Types of mood-tracking technologies:

1. Tech that asks you how you’re feeling

Mood-tracker wristband Moodbeam features two buttons that allow you to indicate one of two emotional states, happy or sad, to help people such as your employer or family members keep track of your mental well-being. That’s right, it’s not really meant for you but for others who want to see if you’re doing O.K. Your mood, which is logged and analyzed alongside sleep and activity, is viewable on an app.

2. Tech that observes voice and speech changes

The Halo Band, an Amazon product, uses built-in microphones to listen to you speak during the day. Its algorithm scores your voice samples for positivity and provides feedback on your mental states based on changes in your voice tone throughout the day. An app created by Sonde Health, a healthcare tech company, also uses voice as a biomarker to indicate mental conditions such as stress and depression.

3. Tech that tracks heart rate

HeartMath’s Inner Balance, a bluetooth sensor for iPhone and Android, measures heart rhythm patterns to deduce emotion state. It aims to help you regain emotional balance and resilience.

4. Tech that detects breathing patterns

Spire Stone, a small clip-on, tracks breathing patterns through the expansion and contraction of your torso. Its app sends notifications to you when abnormal breathing patterns are detected and suggests guided exercises and meditations accordingly. Prana, also a clip-on that monitors breathing patterns, simultaneously evaluates your posture and suggests improvements that could benefit your mental health.

5. Tech that measures skin pores

Pip, a handheld biosensor, tracks changes in skin pores, which correspond to levels of stress levels and visualizes them with suggestions on how to be more calm and effective.

6. Tech that senses brain waves

Healium, a platform that functions with an Apple watch or an EEG headband, visualizes your feelings using augmented and virtual reality. Picking up your brain waves and electricity, it projects your emotions on a screen to let you manage your stress and anxiety.

Risks of wearing your mood on your sleeve

Healthcare wearables or technology can work wonders to help not only your body but also your mind. However, the privacy risks are obvious: Users’ most sensitive data could be exposed through data breaches—or simply sold to the highest bidder.

Ambiguity in privacy policies always favors the companies that write them, not consumers. In extreme (but not uncommon) cases, companies may store your data and send it to third parties without your knowledge or consent.

Google, having purchased Fitbit, can capitalize on millions of users’ (supposedly anonymized) data by sharing it with pharmaceutical companies for research and development. Amazon has also been criticized for storing users’ voice recordings: While the Halo Band’s privacy policy says Amazon won’t sell your data, it can data mine every bit of information you send to them—tone patterns, sleep, activity, and more—to learn about the human body and profit from the future of healthcare.

Privacy tips for using health-tracking devices

Read the privacy policy

Before you decide to sign up for any healthcare tracking services, read the privacy policy and get a sense of how your data will be used. If you find the detail in the privacy policy murky, you can assume that is intentional and your data will be shared with third parties. Gauge whether you’re comfortable with it, and if not, consider similar products in the market.

Turn off location tracking

Your data combined with your location makes you more identifiable. Turn off GPS and location tracking in your device’s and app’s settings.

Set profile to private

Many of these health-tracking devices require signing up for a social profile on their apps so that users can share their achievements on it. In most cases, the profile’s privacy setting is defaulted to “public.” Your personal info—containing your name, age, and profile picture if you put up one—is searchable within the app and even possibly on Google. When setting up a profile, make sure to examine all the default settings and choose greater privacy whenever possible.

Read more: We analyzed 450 apps and found location trackers in every one