Why a Facebook Watch Is a Bad Idea

Privacy is already an issue

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook’s watch is expected to launch in 2021.
  • It will focus on health and fitness tracking, and messaging.
  • Facebook is desperate to push its own hardware platform, as Apple shuts down its spying on iOS.
Closeup of someone using an Apple Watch.
Luke Chesser / Unsplash

Facebook plans to launch a smartwatch next year. It will work without a smartphone, will be all about fitness and messaging, and—presumably—will harvest a ton of ultra-private data.

According to The Information, the Facebook watch will have the same core features as the Apple Watch: health and fitness, and messaging. The watch will join Facebook’s other hardware efforts, the Oculus virtual reality headset, and its Ray Ban smart-glasses collaboration. But who, really, would wear a Facebook watch?

"Facebook's entrance into the smartwatch market stems from its perceived need (but really, entitlement) to collect more data," avoidthehack! founder Ashley Simmons told Lifewire via email.

"It's a user privacy nightmare. If we go by the Oculus example, Facebook will likely require its smartwatch users to create a Facebook account. In many cases, Facebook requires new users to 'validate' their accounts by sending in government ID."

Not a Phone

Facebook has a reputation for taking whatever user data it wants, and also for leaking that data. And yet users keep coming back because Facebook offers a compelling proposal in return.

All your friends are on Facebook, along with all your special-interest groups, and so on. If you want to stay in touch, you have to use Facebook, on a computer or, more likely, on a phone. 

A watch is a different proposition. You don’t need it to keep in touch, or to share posts, or to send messages. And a watch also feels more personal.

"It's a user privacy nightmare... In many cases, Facebook requires new users to 'validate' their accounts by sending in government ID."

In reality, your phone goes everywhere you go. But wearing a watch feels more intimate. Facebook will have to come up with a pretty compelling reason to buy its watch over buying an Apple Watch, which comes from a company with a reputation for protecting your privacy, not for invading and exploiting it. 

In fact, Apple’s ever-more-protective measures on the iPhone might be one of the things that has pushed Facebook into hardware. 

Privacy First… On the Chopping Block

Facebook’s attempt to sell a Facebook phone failed, so it relies on other vendors’ platforms. Apple is slowly closing down the security holes that Facebook exploits to garner private user information, which is the lifeblood of its business.

If Facebook can popularize its own hardware platform, its reach into the pot of personal data will be unlimited. 

"Currently, [Facebook] has a notorious reputation for selling user data to third parties with not exactly the best intentions, so a more invasive wearable product will be a difficult sell," Scott Hasting, co-founder of sports-betting software company BetWorthy, told Lifewire via email.

Someone wearing a smartwatch with their arm down by their side.
Tyler Hendy / Unsplash

"Facebook's privacy issues are no secret. Users are hesitant enough to trust Facebook with social data, but imagine if they start tracking your health, location, and text messages as well."

Facebook is also intensely competitive; one might even say paranoid. Whenever another platform looks likely to rival Facebook in popularity, it buys or copies it.

It bought Instagram, a social network for photos, and then used that to copy TikTok and Snapchat. When WhatsApp became the default messaging and group-sharing app outside the US, Facebook bought it. 

And now, watches are getting big. "It likely stems from Amazon's entrance into the market, and Google's official entrance with the acquisition of Fitbit," says Simmons.

But in the end, it’s all about the data. "Facebook thrives off collecting data and corporate surveillance because its business model literally profits off us humans' need to connect," says Simmons.

"Entering the smartwatch market means Facebook can collect a missing data point—health/fitness related data—about its users."

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