Physiological privacy.

Principal investigator

Parra-Arnau, J. (UPC)

Start date

January 1st, 2023




Physiological rehabilitation

Rehabilitation equipment has come a long way in recent years. With the advancement of technology, rehabilitation equipment is becoming more sophisticated and increasingly tailored to the specific needs of patients. This has led to a significant improvement in the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs and has enabled healthcare professionals to better track patients' progress throughout their recovery journey.

One of the key areas of development in rehabilitation equipment is the automatic reporting capabilities that many devices now possess. Equipped with sensors that can track metrics such as range of motion, muscle strength, and flexibility, rehabilitation equipment can provide real-time feedback to healthcare professionals to adjust the rehabilitation program as necessary. Additionally, automatic reporting capabilities enable easy access and analysis of patient progress data, saving time and effort while ensuring more accurate and comprehensive tracking of progress.

Another major development in strength equipment is continuous weight tracking, which allows healthcare professionals to monitor the amount of weight a patient is using during exercises, which can help them to ensure that the patient is not overexerting themselves or putting too much strain on their muscles. This feature can also help to prevent injuries and ensure that the patient is progressing at an appropriate pace.

In addition to these technological advancements, rehabilitation equipment is also becoming increasingly personalized. Many devices now offer a range of customization options, such as adjustable resistance levels and personalized exercise programs. This allows healthcare professionals to tailor rehabilitation programs to the specific needs of each patient, ensuring that they receive the most effective treatment possible. This is the case of the training equipment developed by HUR, which allows adjusting sets, repetitions, resistance and heart rate limit thanks to individual training programs, recording all activity for automatic reporting and feedback.

Privacy and security issues

However, while the advancement of technology in rehabilitation equipment has revolutionized the way healthcare professionals approach patient recovery, the increasing personalization and sophistication of these devices also raises concerns about user privacy. As these devices become more integrated into healthcare systems, unique patterns and sensitive inferences may be derived from patient data, potentially compromising their privacy.

One major concern is the likelihood of patients being identified through their data. With the incorporation of sensors and automatic reporting capabilities in rehabilitation equipment, personal data is continuously collected and processed. As mentioned above, healthcare professionals can use this data to create personalized treatment plans, monitor progress, and make adjustments as necessary. However, this data may also contain unique patterns that can be used to identify the patient. For example, the way a patient activates their muscles while weighting may be unique to them, and exactly as a biometric template this information could be used to identify them in a larger dataset.

Another concern is the risk of sensitive inferences being drawn from patient data. With continuous moni-toring of metrics such as range of motion, muscle strength, and flexibility, healthcare professionals can create a detailed profile of a patient's physical abilities and limitations. This information can be used to develop a more personalized rehabilitation program, but it can also be used to draw sensitive inferences about the patient's health status. For example, the likelihood of being injured again may be inferred from the data collected by rehabilitation equipment. This information may be considered sensitive, as it can impact the patient's employment prospects, insurance coverage, or other areas of their life.

Furthermore, the increasing sophistication of rehabilitation equipment may also raise concerns about data security. With more devices connected to the internet and healthcare systems, there is a greater risk of data breaches and unauthorized access. Patient data may be vulnerable to cyberattacks, which can compromise their privacy and put their personal information at risk.


The project focuses on weighting rehabilitation equipment and aims to investigate the following hypotheses:

H1. To which extent our muscle activation patterns are unique while weighting, and therefore can be used for reidentification?

H2. If H1 is confirmed, can we develop privacy-enhancing technologies that can prevent reidentification while maintaining data collection and the advanced functionalities building on patients’ data (e.g., personalized training programs)?