Balancing the Halo: Data Surveillance and Algorithmic Opacity in Smart Hearing Aids
Rhetoric of Health & Medicine 4(1), pp. 33–74
54 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2020 Last revised: 28 May 2021
Date Written: January 11, 2020
Medical device manufacturers and other high-technology companies increasingly incorporate algorithmic data surveillance in next-generation medical wearables. These devices, including hearing aids, leverage patient data created through human-computer interaction to not only power devices but also increase corporate profits. Although data protection laws establish privacy requirements for personal information collection and use, these companies continue to use patients’ personal information with little notice or education, significantly curtailing the agency of wearers. We explore the complex ecology of the Starkey Halo smart hearing aid, focusing on the opacity of its algorithmic functionality and examining patient education materials for disclosures of data surveillance. We contextualize these findings within relevant privacy doctrines in the United States and European Union that are relevant to algorithmic surveillance and recommend specific steps to enhance wearer agency through informed decision-making.
Keywords: disability, Internet of Things, privacy, data protection, medical wearables, medical device, artificial intelligence, biocapitalism
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