Player Privacy Protection Central to Innovation and Success

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Photo courtesy of the Associated Press (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

Player contact tracing has become a central tool in the success of playing sports.  However, tracking of player data for health reasons is just the beginning.  Players unions beware as privacy and monetization issues arise in the use of personal data and information. 

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is one of many legislative efforts across the United States seeking to monitor the collection, use, and sale of consumer and personal information.  The CCPA partly targets entertainment, media, and sports companies, which sports teams might fall under according to the definition in the law.  Beyond the CCPA, entertainment and sports businesses use contact tracing to keep industries like Hollywood production and events moving forward as planned.

With news that the National Basketball Association (NBA) will require players to wear sensors to assist with contact tracing for the 2021 season, it opens the door to continued player monitoring.  Player data that can be used to help with injury prevention and more broadly analytics.  In another way, player data can be used for monetization purposes when it comes to sports betting.

As teams, leagues, and businesses continue to use and need player data for a multitude of purposes, it raises privacy concerns.  Players unions and the players should be in control of their data.  The first step in that process is knowing what data is being collected, used, and sold.  Knowledge is very much monetization power in this context. 

From a sports betting standpoint, is the more controversial aspect in the collection, sale, and release of player data.  Knowing player health is something any sports better or daily fantasy user would want to know before putting money down (or starting a player vs. another).  Knowledge to this point has been excluded and maybe for good reason because it opens the door to player health data (privacy concerns) and insider information (impropriety issues).  Player injury designations disclosed publicly by teams are one thing, but knowing the extent of injuries and player health and performance in general allows for the next frontier in sports analytics.   

From a fan engagement standpoint, it could also be that player data could become interactive through digital interlays on television, mobile, and other screens.  Digital interlays could show the heart rate of a player, the speed, or temperature, etc.  The same information could be displayed with momentary player-perspective cameras

2021 will be an interesting sports year, but leagues, teams, and players would be wise to utilize and properly manage player data for privacy and secondarily where appropriate for licensing purposes.  For example, imagine health reports and updates by athlete-worn tracers combined with a health/tech company brand/product partnership.  In some sense, player health could be an extension of name, image, and likeness as long as the data is monetizable and protectable.    

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