"I felt like a lab rat": the importance of power and context in understanding biometric technologies

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    In “Tracking U.S. Professional Athletes,” Karkazis and Fishman (2017) identify risks associated with the expanded monitoring enabled by biometric technologies. These technologies, as the authors correctly observe, have a range of applications in sport—injury management and prevention, training and performance enhancement, and health management, to name just a few—and “offer the potential to monitor athletes’ physiology around the clock, on and off the field” (45). The ability to track, document, and share data on various aspects of athletes’ biological and physical characteristics becomes particularly problematic in practice: Not only are there significant power differentials in U.S. professional sport that often disadvantage athletes, there is also an absence of regulation aimed at protecting athletes’ data and its use. Recognizing that Karkazis and Fishman's article is a preliminary overview of the ethical concerns at hand, this commentary focuses on two areas for further consideration: (1) the need for deeper knowledge about how athletes perceive and value issues of personal autonomy, bodily integrity, and individual privacy; and (2) a more nuanced understanding of regulation than the authors present in the article. Critically engaging both areas has the potential to assist in developing regulatory approaches that support better governance by addressing data-specific issues, as well as underlying institutional dynamics that inform them. If regulation is to benefit less powerful actors—in this case, athletes—then it must do more than apply existing recommendations on data governance; it must be attentive to the specific norms and values of the sports it aims to influence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)63-65
    JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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