Do wearable tech companies gather data from athletes?

A new $170 million contract between Nike and the University of Michigan's athletic department could leave athletes' personal data up for grabs, according to The New York Times.

Through wearables — such as heart rate monitors and GPS trackers — Nike has a full glimpse into Wolverine athletes' health information and has full authority "to utilize" its rights to that information. However, the contract specifies that the data will also "be subject to university approval."

Privacy experts and professionals worry the vague contract language may harm athletes' future prospects. "There's not a lot of protection for players," said Tatiana Melnik, JD, according to the Times. "How does a player know you're not going to turn around and share this information with the NFL?"

Nike officials claim that won't be the case.

"We'll continue to use athlete science to inform footwear and apparel advancements for performance and safety," said Nike spokesman Josh Benedek. "We take athlete data, privacy and security seriously."

Kurt Svoboda, a spokesman for the University of Michigan's athletic department, agreed. "We would evaluate each request on its own merits and utilize our approval rights in the best interests of U.M. and our student athletes," said Mr. Svoboda.

The trend isn't new in the world of college athletics. The University of Tennessee signed a similar contract with Nike in 2014. UCLA and Under Armour inked a contract earlier this year, while the University of Notre Dame and Florida State University have each signed deals with Catapault, an Australian wearables company geared toward athletes.

Still, the language in the Michigan-Nike deal is a cause for concern.

"I have to wonder if Michigan knows what they've just done," said Katrina Karkazis, PhD, a bioethicist at Stanford University. "I don't know if they've seen the size of the hornets' nest they've hit."

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