Blaugust Day 15 – Mood Tracking Apps

(This blog post topic comes from my sister Beth Wells – I hope I did it justice – it’s been a few days since we discussed it!)

At this year’s Wimbledon Men’s Singles final match, some of the Centre Court spectators were given tracker apps, which was connected to a cuff that recorded and analysed heart rate, skin temperate, motion and even sounds in order to determine their mood throughout the match.

This article on The Guardian goes on to point out that this technology, while still very much in the R and D stage, could be used to tailor adverts and marketings to suit people’s mood, especially when combined with the geolocation tech that is standard in most phones, tablets etc. According to Michael Cohen, from NYU Stern School of Business’s marketing department (who is quoted in the article):

“We can track and tailor a message or a shopping experience to your profile based on all the information we’ve learned from monitoring you.”

Now, to many this might sound like the last straw of big brother checking up on us, but many people already happily give up this info to various apps to track their health and well being, and other apps auto-track fitness info – number of steps or miles run. It’s entirely possible that in a few years, it’ll be totally normal for your app to record your daily jog, figure out the calories used and suggest a suitable meal, perhaps even give you the option to order an appropriate delivery? From there, it’s not a huge stretch for apps to sell you things based on the emotions that your phone or device can record.

While on one level this might be a great step forward for money-rich time-poor app users, there are some very real moral issues with tailoring adverts to fit people’s mood. Feeling sad? Want to buy some comfort food? Perhaps medication? (At least, in countries where medication is less regulated than in the UK.) Had a lot to drink? Here’s some really advisable purchases via Amazon one-click! And for people with any kind of emotional issues, it could be a real problem. The thing is, I’m not sure how you’d begin to regulate what apps can and can’t promote, once people willingly sign up for them. Manually tracking emotion and mood through apps is already a huge business, so letting your devices do it for you will seem totally logical to plenty of people. It’s what happens to that information next that users will have to potentially be really careful about.

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