Big Brother

Posted 18th November 2015 by Mawsley
Do the findings of an Australian court case bode ill for our future? In what is being described as a landmark case, the court has paved the way for even higher insurance premiums for smokers – a result that opens the door to charge overweight people more and, if implemented here, vapers too. Some will see it as a further erosion of privacy and personal choice.

Mark Fitzgibbon, a leading insurance company executive, welcomed the court’s verdict with a chilling forecast: “It's not too far away where we will have little nano capsules in our blood stream providing us with all our vital diagnostics, warning us about our blood sugar insulin levels at any given time, measuring our calorie intake and measuring how many calories we've expended.”

This comes hot on the heels of a decision by the Australian government to allow people’s medical records to be shared with third parties, and Fitzgibbon is keen that insurance companies number among them. “We already retain very sensitive and private data for our policy holders,” he said in an attempt to allay fears.

But then some people will remember Premera Blue Cross not protecting the data of 11 million people. Or Anthem Incorporated, who failed to put in sufficient measures to secure the data of their 80 million customers. Or the 1.1 million people effected by a data breach at Nationwide. The bottom line is that data is far from safe in the hands of corporations as monthly cyber attacks prove.

First they came for The Smokers and I did nothing for I was not a smoker.

Then they came for The Vapers and I did nothing for I was not a vaper.

Then they came for The Fast Food Eaters...

Employers have been clamping down on vapers ability to use their devices during work hours. Recently Nottinghamshire Council announced that it would not allow vaping during work hours – or even if the employee was commuting in uniform. Others have taken to the Internet to find out if they can discriminate during interviews.

Ignorance in employers, who conflate vaping with smoking, drives them to a totalitarian response as they seek to raise productivity. Initially it looked as though testing for vapers would fail, nicotine doesn’t last for long in the body. So they test for cotinine, produced in the body from and testable up to a week after using nicotine.

People have been expressing fears that the UK is becoming a surveillance society for many years. Billions of pounds have been lost in the development of an electronic health record system, and highlighted the flaws inherent in such a structure. But data is worth money, especially to insurers and companies more concerned about cyberloafing than paying a living wage. At the same time consumers are flocking to wearable health monitoring tech, oblivious or unconcerned about the potential ramifications of who else might get to see the readings.

This is far more than an issue solely for vapers but we will certainly be among the first to be impacted when or if larger scale monitoring takes place. Maybe it’s time to think twice before buying that next puff-counting, Bluetooth-ready device?

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker