Last week, Rian Watt published a terrific piece at Vice Sports on the growing use of wearable technology by Major League Baseball teams for purposes of collecting players’ biometric data. If you haven’t read Watt’s article, go check it out, it’s fantastic. In short, though, the piece explores the ethical implications of MLB teams asking their players to wear devices — such as the Readiband sleep monitoring system recently employed by the Seattle Mariners — that collect data that can not only be used for purposes of fine-tuning players’ on-field performance, but also potentially for roster- and contract-related decisions as well.
For instance, while the sleep-tracking data provided by Readiband could certainly help players adjust their sleep patterns to maximize their chances of performing at a peak level on the playing field, this data could also give teams insight into a player’s habits undertaken in the privacy of his own home. It’s not hard to imagine a team ultimately incorporating such information, or other forms of biometric data, into their player evaluations in ways that may ultimately harm a player’s career prospects or earning potential.
In addition to the ethical considerations surrounding the use of these technologies explored in Watt’s article, the collection of biometric data by MLB franchises also has potential legal implications as well. As Watt notes in his piece, wearable technology may very well become an issue during this year’s collective-bargaining negotiations between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association. Indeed, Pirates’ infielder Cole Figueroa recently mentioned during an episode of the Effectively Wild podcast that a number of MLB players are growing increasingly concerned over the potentially adverse consequences of the growing use of this technology by their teams.