Nike and Apple have agreed to settle in a class action lawsuit alleging that the two sold the Nike FuelBand fitness tracker knowing that the device’s biometrics measurements were inaccurate.
As a result, Nike will pay out $2.4 million in claims to people who bought the FuelBand between January 2012 and June 2015. Apple, which sold the FuelBand in its stores up until March of this year, will pay nothing.
The plaintiffs in the class proved to the court that the calorie burn, steps and overall activity measurements in the device’s “NikeFuel” dashboard were inaccurate, and that Nike and Apple continued marketing the product knowing that.
This is the dirty little secret of fitness trackers in general. Certainly many of them present accurate information, but many do not. All one needs to do is wear several types of trackers for a day and compare the results. They won’t be the same, and may be wildly different.
But the devices have met with very little scrutiny over the data they present.
Trackers often claim to present data like “calorie burn” based on several sensor readings and an algorithm. But they overreach. The reading of an accelerometer can’t possibly gather enough data about the user’s body and activity to claim to measure weight loss or blood pressure, or to make statements about the quality of sleep.