Smart devices typically make our lives easier by collecting information and communicating it with other internet-connected tools. It turns out that in some cases, that’s making things easier for advertisers, too. Kinsa, the maker of internet-connected thermometers, has been selling user data to Clorox and other companies, according to a report from the New York Times.
Clorox reportedly licensed some information from Kinsa, a San Francisco-based tech startup, during the most recent flu season. That data showed the cleaning products manufacturer what ZIP codes across the United States were seeing an increase in fevers. Clorox then used that information to target advertisements in those areas in order to try to convince people to purchase products like disinfecting wipes.
Kinsa was able to provide that information by aggregating the data collected from the more than 500,000 American households that have one of its internet-connected thermometers. When someone takes their own temperature or the temperature of their child with a Kinsa device, that adds another data point to the company’s collection of “illness data.” That information can be collected in real time, so the company has a live look at where there are flareups of sickness around the country.
Kinsa anonymizes the data it collects before sharing it, and the company says that the aggregated information contains nothing that would be personally identifiable. But it still may feel invasive to some people to know that whatever information may come up on their thermometer is contributing to a map of sickness that is being sold to other companies — especially when the end result is targeted advertising to those who are ill or caring for someone who is. Kinsa’s information, sold under the name Kinsa Insights, has also been purchased by pharmacies and drug makers, according to the New York Times.
While Kinsa’s data-sharing practices may make some users adverse to its product, the company claims most people opt into sharing data. The company also views information sharing as more than just advertising. Kinsa pointed out that it can help retailers make sure their shelves are stocked with cold medicine when a spike in sickness hits a certain region. The information can also be transferred to partners like tele-medicine services to help consumers quickly share symptoms and illness history with doctors.