“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”


~ George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 7

As with just about any technological advance I can think of, there are, of course, possible Orwellian implications here.  Of course, used in such a way as to provide a personal “nudge“, the technology could be utilized in a very advantageous way.  I tend to be an optimist in these areas — vis-a-vis, the possible personal use advantages of technology —  though I am a bit of an anarchist when it comes to government intrusion and nefarious uses of personal information.  Anyway, this is good fodder for further discussion.

From Mashable.com, this interesting story:

Together with IBM, Google has launched a new Google Health initiative: the service will now be able to pull data directly from various medical devices: heart rate monitors, scales, blood-sugar measurement meters and so on.

That’s right, besides knowing pretty much everything about you, if you let it, Google can now pull personal information directly from your body.

There are very palpable benefits to this; for example, your personal trainer, doctor or nutritionist will now be able to remotely monitor how your body works. Eat too many donuts, and your insulin level will skyrocket; but if you give access to your blood sugar level monitor to your doctor, he’s going to have that “you’re not listening to me” frown next time you visit him.

There are also downsides; I don’t doubt that Google will take special care to protect the users’ privacy, but still: are you sure you want to share your vital signs with…well, anyone online? The service is, of course, voluntary, but concerns are raised about the fact that this data can be used for health marketing; if Google knows you have a high blood pressure, it also knows which health-related ads to serve you.

Google’s view on the matter is clear, though. As Roni Zeiger, Google’s product manager for Google Health, puts it: “The patient has complete control. They decide what they put in. If they import other data, they–and only they–decide whether they will share the data with anyone. Adding devices doesn’t change the story at all.”

What do you think about this?  Good, bad, or sinfully ugly?

In Health,

Keith

7 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think this is that big a deal – at least no more so than the rest of Google’s undertakings.

    People must absolutely keep a watchful eye on the company and register their issues when they feel their conduct isn’t acceptable. However, as the article said, no one is forcing anyone to share their information.

    The public health benefits of this could be enormous though.

  2. This is certainly interesting. My knee jerk reaction to that possibility was “hell, no am I going to have my vitals plugged into the faceless internet in real time.”

    But after that reaction I can certainly see the benefits of sharing information. Like having a your own medically-inclined airline-style black box attached so that the medical field could indeed compose a clearer picture of one’s day-to-day metrics.

    My car (and most these days) has a computer with constant read out of temperature, avg mpg, avg mph, etc. At first, I thought I didn’t need all this info, but I really miss it if I drive another car. And to check something less inate than the car like yourself certainly would appeal to me.

    Still, I wouldn’t sign up for this even with the benefits listed above. Sadly we live in a litigious world with a few miscreants who would use this data for less than honorable purposes.

    • Andy,
      I was thinking along the lines of insurance companies “adjusting” your quarterly rates according to your blood profile. Of course for the Paleo crowd, this might be a good thing.

  3. Andy – interesting you should mention the car, since there’s a downside there as well. I believe the on board computers log travel direction, speed, brake application, etc…

    I believe these logs have been used against the drivers in several court cases.

    • Chris,
      I believe there was a lawsuit recently between and auto rental company and a rental car “renter” with part of the litigation hinging on the fact that the rental company could prove the “renter” did not adhere to the signed contract vis-a-vis maximum highway speed. GPS tracking data was involved, proving the car went from point a to b in x amount of time, therefore proving the “renter” exceeded the contract maximum allowable speed. Interesting.

  4. Good to know about the rental cars. Wouldn’t there be someway to make this information available only to certain people? That wouldn’t be hard would it? Also wouldn’t it require a certain degree of manually entering info from the home/hospital? Or would your scale/heart rate monitor/ beam the info to your computer? Or am I missing exactly what this is suggesting?

    It seems that having this information accessible only to those cleared to wouldn’t be impossible . . . the concern comes when it becomes mandatory . . .

  5. Keith, Chris,

    All those scenarios would be possible with that type of information available. Not only would the insurance company be interested, but in an Orwellian world I could see that information being used by law enforcement, lawyers (“My client’s blood sugar was extremely low that day from not eating his ration of 3 morning donuts. That’s why he went on a shooting spree.”), even employers.

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