Beeminder Forum

What scale to buy?

What is the best scale to buy for autodata Beeminder weight monitoring?

  • Autodata: set and forget.
  • Accuracy: It must display the actual weight - even if it changed only slightly. Lots of consumer scales fudge with this.
  • Privacy: It should (if at all possible) keep the data inside my own network (and of course at Beeminder). No dodgy third party data aggregators please.
  • Apps: It should transmit data directly over wifi. I’d prefer not to buy an extra Android just as a relay station, and my main phone is not in the bathroom. But privacy is more important.
  • Multi-user: The entire family should be able to use the scale, without misattributions.

I know there are lots and lots of data integrations, but it takes a lot of time figuring out what services they offer.

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From the Nov 30 beemail:

We highly recommend getting the cheapest Withings scale and connecting it to Beeminder. Those scales are normally around $60 but are $50 on save-money-on-the-internet day:

Weight & BMI Wi-Fi Scale - Body | Withings

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We’ve got a Withings that I bought years ago for use with Beeminder (in May 2012 according to my graph!)

I think it ticks all of your boxes:

  • Autodata - it mostly just works. In a decade I’ve rarely had to do anything other than change the batteries
  • Privacy - the data goes via Withings themselves, rather than using some other third party
  • Apps - the scale talks to the wifi, no app needed
  • Multi-User - the scale tries to associate a weigh-in automatically with an individual, and if it can’t tell whose weight it is, it will ask you to select the right person’s initials (by stepping on one side or other of the scale)
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Actually, the Withings scale scores pretty badly from a privacy point of view:

The app is far from privacy-respecting and the scale “cannot be set up from a computer” according to website.

Data does go to Withings, whose privacy policy says

  • they track much more data than needed for a scale to work (e.g. phone number, address, network names are uploaded to their HealthMate account),
  • they “backup” all my weigh-ins to the cloud, and
  • they allow willy-nilly data access to their “authorized third parties”. There is nothing to stop partners from de-anonymizing me because they track enough metadata.
  • Everything is stored permanently until the end user actively requests deletion (even though permanent storage is illegal in the EU).

For an idea of the privacy / security issues this kind of thing can cause, see Your Smart Scale Is Leaking More than Your Weight: Privacy Issues in IoT

Could Openscale, which supports a range of scales, hook up Beeminder? Upon further reading, Openscale only supports Bluetooth scales. I’ve always hated fiddling with unreliable Bluetooth.

Is there a privacy-friendly scale that “just works”? Are there any out-of-the-box, reliable alternative scales so I can pick the least bad one?

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For those with less stringent privacy concerns (I have no opinions on how stringent it makes sense to be) I’ll add my strong recommendation for Withings. @bee and I (the Beeminder founders) have personally used their scales for something like 12 years (we ordered our first one from France, before they sold them in the US) and they are rock solid. The original one lasted for a decade and the others we’ve gotten (for our kids, my mom, the replacement for the super-OG one) all seem rock solid, super accurate, etc. And we know one of the founders a bit and trust the company in general.

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Interesting that the Android app permissions look much more far-reaching than the iOS ones.

And even comparing the ios privacy ticklist to my actual experience:

  • it has no access to, nor has it asked for, my location
  • nor for my contacts, call history, photos, etc
  • the interaction with Apple’s Health app has additional fine-grained controls about read/write for each item
  • has access to camera (for measuring heartbeat)

I’ve just enabled the new iOS App Privacy Report, so my phone will start monitoring more closely what apps actually use which features when. (Settings > Privacy > at the bottom)

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