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Privacy and Security Evaluation of the Verizon GizmoWatch

Learn about the GizmoWatch privacy and security features

Girard Kelly | April 24, 2020

The Common Sense Privacy Program evaluates the privacy policies of popular consumer and education technology applications and services that are currently used by millions of children at home and in the classroom.

We evaluated the privacy practices and performed a hands-on basic security test of five popular smartwatches used by kids and teens for parents and teachers to learn more about their security practices and how they compare to other popular smartwatches. We completed evaluations of the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, Verizon GizmoWatch, Fitbit Ace 2, and Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2,  identifying the potential privacy risks and harms that may affect children, students, and families who use these devices.

When evaluating whether to use smart tech paired with a mobile app at home or in the classroom, parents and teachers need a comprehensive understanding of both the privacy and security practices of a smart device. Our approach lets us compare what the smart tech company says they do with data with what our limited testing can observe about what they actually do with data. We can sometimes observe what data goes to and from the device, but we can't necessarily see what happens with the data when it reaches the external destination. In addition, for our testing purposes we also did not attempt to intercept or observe any cellular or Bluetooth wireless traffic. Our findings are intended to help parents and teachers make better informed decisions about whether to buy this device or a similar smartwatch for use with their children at home or with students at school.

What is smart tech?

The category of smart devices, or the Internet of Things (IoT), covers all the objects or devices used in your home, office, or school that are connected to the internet. More and more of these smart devices are being used by children as toys at home and with students as learning tools in the classroom every day. Smart tech companies claim their devices provide greater convenience and new learning opportunities for children and students, but they also collect and share more information than ever. Connected devices and household gadgets can collect all kinds of sensitive information -- anything from audio and visual recordings of your home to the names of shows you watch, the number of steps you've taken, your child's precise location, how and when you sleep, and even the foods you eat.

What are smartwatches?

A smartwatch is a smart tech device that uses software with a digital touchscreen to display dynamic content on the watch face. However, not all smartwatches are the same. While smartwatches were originally seen as a luxury purchase or status symbol, their prices have fallen rapidly in the past few years. They have become more affordable and are used by more and more kids and teens every day. But there are still inexpensive watches and expensive watches -- watches with only one basic feature and watches with dozens of advanced features, and even watches designed for specific purposes or for specific segments of the population, like kids or athletes. Some smartwatches collect very little sensitive data, but others are designed to collect as much sensitive data as possible, with thousands of data points used to create a profile of the wearer. All smartwatches tell time, and most have fitness features such as a pedometer that measures your steps throughout the day. However, more expensive smartwatches also include advanced fitness-tracking features on the watch and in the companion mobile application. Other advanced features include the ability to send and receive phone calls and messages on the device, and to install third-party apps on the device and mobile application.

What we tested

For this article we evaluated a popular smartwatch used by kids and teens: the Verizon GizmoWatch.

Product Details

Company

Verizon

Name

Verizon GizmoWatch

Link

Website

Price

$180.00

Category

Smartwatches for Kids & Teens

Software

Fitness and GPS location tracking

Privacy Rating

66% Warning

Bottom line

Best watch for GPS: The Verizon GizmoWatch is the easiest location-tracking device to enable parents to stay in touch with their child.

 

Pros

Cons

1.

Calling and Texting: Easy calling and texting features with parents replace the need for a child to carry a mobile phone.

Location Data: Continuously collecting sensitive information about the location, time spent there, and movement of a child could put their personal information at risk.

2.

No Ads or Tracking: The policy states that Verizon will not use information about a child's activities for advertising or tracking purposes.

Limited Features: The GizmoWatch limits features for kids to just displaying the time, tracking steps, receiving phone calls from parents, sending pre-loaded messages, and maintaining a to-do list.

3.

Parental Consent: The policy states that parental consent is required to collect or share a child's location data.

Expensive: The GizmoWatch also requires purchase of an additional mobile phone line with your wireless carrier and extra activation and monthly fees.

Intended Audience
 

Home

School

Kids (under 13)

Kids can use the Verizon GizmoWatch at home to tell time, track their steps, send voice messages or preloaded text messages, receive phone calls, and complete to-do list tasks.

Kids can use the Verizon GizmoWatch in the classroom to tell time, set a timer or use the stop watch as part of an activity, count their steps, and complete to-do list tasks.

Students (K-12)

Students can use the Verizon GizmoWatch at home to track their steps as part of a classroom challenge, set a timer or use the stopwatch as part of an homework activity, and complete to-do list tasks.

Students can use the Verizon GizmoWatch in the classroom as part of an activity to track their steps or participate with other students in challenges.

Parents

Parents can use the Gizmo app to locate the precise location of their child at any time on a map, send phone calls and messages to the watch, and track their child's steps.

Parents can put the watch into "quiet time" to make sure kids are not disturbed at school by phone calls or notifications.

What we found

Our hands-on security testing of smartwatches focuses on both the hardware of the smartwatch device itself and on the privacy of the companion mobile application that is used to set up the device, extended its functionality, and transfer data between the smartwatch, the mobile device, and the internet.

Software

The GizmoWatch is paired with the following mobile app:

 GizmoHub (iOS, Google Play)

Device setup

The GizmoHub watch mobile application launches with a welcome screen that displays all the features available to parents after they set up their child's watch. 

         

Getting started

The app prompts the user to sign in or create an account and displays Verizon's GizmoHub app privacy policy for review. Don't worry, we already read the privacy notice and terms and conditions for you and summarize our findings in our privacy evaluation.

       

Creating a parent or guardian account

If a parent does not already have an account, they can create a new GizmoHub account and are asked to enter their name, mobile number, a password that meets strong and complex password requirements, and a birth date to confirm the user's age. If a user provides a birth date that indicates they are under the age of 13, the mobile app blocks registration and requires the user start the registration process over again.

         

Parental consent

After a parent creates an account, they are required to provide a two-factor authentication code that was sent to their email to verify the identity of the account and associate their email address with their phone number. After a parent has registered or signed in to the GizmoHub app, they can add a child account that is associated with their parent account. A parent is required to enter their child's name, gender, optional photo, and birth date in order to add their child to their account and start using the GizmoWatch.

         

Pairing the watch

The app asks the parent to pair their new Gizmo smartwatch and the GizmoHub mobile app with a security code that is sent by text message to the mobile device number provided during account registration.

       

Setting a security PIN

Parents can also choose to set a personal security PIN to lock the GizmoHub app from access on the mobile device, because if another individual has physical possession of the parent's mobile devices, they could potentially access sensitive geolocation information about the child. In addition, the app requests access to the mobile device's contact list in order to add parent-approved contact phone numbers to contact the child's Gizmo watch.

       

Personalize the app

The mobile app also provides a tour of the different ways to use and personalize the child's smartwatch. Parents can keep track of their child's number of steps, to-do action items, and location alerts, and can make phone calls, text, and manage approved contacts. More information about how to use all the features of the GizmoWatch are available in the user manual.

         

App settings

The app's settings can be easily changed and quiet mode and quiet time settings can be set to make sure the child is not interrupted by notifications or phone calls during certain hours. Also, parents can check to see if any software updates are available and what notifications and phone calls the watch has received. 

         

Hardware

The GizmoWatch hardware is packed with new technologies, which also means that the device has data-collection capabilities that raise privacy and security concerns. The chart below shows what we found in both the hardware of the smartwatch itself (in the row labeled "Device"), and the companion mobile application installed on a mobile device (in the row labeled "App"). Learn more about what's inside the GizmoWatch and read our tips on privacy and security below.

Device Collection Details

 

Step tracking

Heart rate tracking

Sleep tracking

Cellular connectivity

Microphone access

GPS location access

App

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

Device

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

What can all that hardware do?

GizmoWatch has a "brain" powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor. That means the GizmoWatch can quickly collect and process information within the device itself.

Tip: The more information collected and processed, the more privacy and security risk there is for that information.

GizmoWatch can "feel" with a pedometer and touchscreen in the device. That means the GizmoWatch can collect information about when and how an individual touches the watch display and can detect their steps when walking or running. The watch can also display their location and health-related information on the smartwatch or mobile app.

Tip: Information collected about a child's or student's bodily health or use of a product's tracking features over time is typically called usage, biometric, or behavioral information.

GizmoWatch has "ears" with a microphone for listening to voices during phone calls. That means the GizmoWatch can listen to and process phone conversations between the watch and another mobile device.

Tip: Audio information about the duration, tone, pitch, and content of voice communications, as well as when and where those communications happened, may contain personal or sensitive information. This is a risk to a greater number of people's privacy when the GizmoWatch is used in a public place, office space, or classroom than when it's used in a private home on speaker phone.

GizmoWatch has a voice that is spoken through its watch speakers that allow telephone conversations. That means the GizmoWatch knows which sounds it makes and the content of the audio conversations it has between the watch and another mobile device.

Tip: Information about the duration and content of spoken telephone conversations the GizmoWatch gives to users may contain personal or sensitive information and may be audible to others. This is a risk to a greater number of people's privacy when the GizmoWatch is used in a public place, office space, or classroom than when it's used in a private home on speaker phone.

GizmoWatch has a "face" with its display watch face and its companion GizmoHub mobile app. That means the GizmoWatch can display images to children and students on their watch face or on a mobile device through the digital screen.

Tip: Fitness or health-related information visually displayed to users may contain personal or sensitive information and be visible to others. This is a bigger privacy risk when the GizmoWatch is used in a public place, office space, or classroom than when it's used in a doctor's office or private home.

GizmoWatch has connectivity with 4G LTE cellular connections for sending and receiving data. That means the GizmoWatch can send and receive information it has collected or processed.

Tip: Cellular LTE connections on a smartwatch or mobile device can send collected information to the cloud for processing and must be encrypted while in transit and while stored in the cloud to remain secure.

GizmoWatch has energy with a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery for up to 4 days of usage time and up to 7 days of standby time. That means the GizmoWatch is able to collect and process sensitive health-related information continuously while it is powered on and being worn on the individual's wrist.

Tip: The longer a device is operational, the more sensitive information it can collect and process.

Privacy ating

privacy rating and score (How we rate)


DATA SAFETY DATA RIGHTS ADS & TRACKING
How safe is this product? What rights do I have to the data? Are there advertisements or tracking?
Better Users can interact with trusted users and/or students. Better Opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected. Worse Unclear whether data are shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
Unclear Users can interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults. Better Users can control their information through privacy settings. Worse Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
Better Profile information is not shared for social interactions. Worse Users can create or upload content. Worse Behavioral or targeted advertising is displayed.

Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.

If you would like to see how the GizmoWatch compares to other popular smartwatches for kids, read our article comparing Smartwatch Privacy for Kids During the Coronavirus Pandemic.