CEO Reminds Everyone His Company Collects Customers' Sleep Data to Make Zeitgeisty Point About OpenAI Drama

The Eight Sleep pod is a mattress topper with a terms of service and a privacy policy. The company "may share or sell" the sleep data it collects from its users.
CEO Reminds Everyone His Company Collects Customers' Sleep Data to Make Zeitgeisty Point About OpenAI Drama
Image: Eight Sleep

Is the OpenAI CEO drama causing a public health crisis in San Francisco? The CEO of Eight Sleep, a buzzy smart mattress topper popular with tech workers thinks: Possibly!

Matteo Franceschetti, the CEO of Eight Sleep, which makes the $2,295 smart mattress topper “The Pod” tweeted: “Breaking news: The OpenAI drama is real. We checked our data and last night, SF saw a spike in low-quality sleep. There was a 27 percent increase in people getting under 5 hours of sleep. We need to fix this. Source: @eightsleep data.” 

Franceschetti’s tweet reminds us that The Pod is essentially a mattress with both a privacy policy and a terms of service, and that the data Eight Sleep collects about its users can and is used to further its business goals. It’s also a reminder that many apps, smart devices, and apps for smart devices collect a huge amount of user data that they can then directly monetize or deploy for marketing or Twitter virality purposes whenever they feel like it. 

The Pod does “intelligent cooling and heating for any bed,” and learns and adjusts the temperature of the bed based on your sleep habits, tracks your sleep and vital signs while you sleep, and gives you a “Sleep Fitness Score” based on your quality, routine, and time of sleep. As someone who often does not sleep well, The Pod is a compelling product that I cannot currently afford.

Quickly, to get it out of the way: Eight Sleep’s data does not and cannot actually show that “San Francisco” had a spike in low-quality sleep. What it shows is that people in San Francisco who have purchased a $2,295 smart mattress topper and have not successfully opted out of Eight Sleep’s analytics—a group that surely overindexes on tech workers—slept less Sunday night.

The top of Eight Sleep's terms of service states "At Eight Sleep we pledge to respect your privacy and to keep your data safe. We only collect data that helps us improve our products and services." Both Eight Sleep’s privacy policy and terms of service then go on to note that the company collects a huge amount of data that can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including marketing, retargeting, and scientific studies. It can also, apparently, be used by the CEO for commenting on the day’s tech news. 

De-identified data that does not identify you may be used to inform the health and scientific community about trends; for marketing and promotional use; or for sale to interested audiences. See "Sharing of De-identified Data That Does Not Identify You" to learn more. WHAT KINDS OF DATA WE SHARE DATA THAT COULD IDENTIFY YOU Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is data that includes a personal identifier like your name, email or address, or data that could reasonably be linked back to you. We will only share this data under the following circumstances:  With companies that are contractually engaged in providing us with services, such as order fulfillment, email management and credit card processing. These companies are obligated by contract to safeguard any PII they receive from us. If we believe that disclosure is reasonably necessary to comply with a law, regulation, valid legal process (e.g., subpoenas or warrants served on us), or governmental or regulatory request, to enforce or apply the Terms of Service or Terms of Sale, to protect the security or integrity of the Eight Service, and/or to protect the rights, property, or safety of Eight, its employees, users, or others. If we are going to release your data, we will do our best to provide you with notice in advance by email, unless we are prohibited by law from doing so. We may disclose or transfer your PII in connection with the sale, merger, bankruptcy, sale of assets or reorganization of our company. We will notify you if a different company will receive your PII and the promises in this Privacy Policy will apply to your data as transferred to the new entity.

Specifically, the company notes that “data about your sleep activity is transferred from your Device to our servers” every time the Pod’s app syncs with the Pod. Certain features on the device also require location data “including GPS signals, device sensors, Wi-Fi access points, and cell tower IDs.” This data is then used to give users personalized sleep recommendations, but they are also “used in research to understand and improve the Eight Device and Eight Service,” “to enforce the Eight Terms of Service,” and, critically, “de-identified data that does not identify you may be used to inform the health and scientific community about trends; for marketing and promotional use; or for sale to interested audiences.” 

The terms of service add that it "may share or sell" this data.

There is an incredible wealth of research that shows that de-identified data can sometimes be tied back to specific users, or can, at the very least, be used in a way that users don’t expect. Whitney Merrill, a privacy expert and information security lawyer, tweeted that she is reconsidering getting an Eight Sleep Pod because of Franceschetti’s tweet: “I’m sure it’s aggregate and anonymous, but it just feels creepy. I don’t want my health information, like sleep data used this way.” 

The terms of service adds that personally identifiable information can be shared with law enforcement if they receive a warrant or subpoena, which is common in tech company terms of service, but a reminder that generally mattresses don’t collect data that can be used in legal proceedings.

Eight Sleep’s website shows that the company is regularly conducting and publishing scientific studies about the efficacy of its products. Many of those studies are done in more traditional scientific ways where participants are recruited and understand that they are part of a study. Eight Sleep did not immediately respond to 404 Media’s request for comment.