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Between Smart Watch and Smart Cuffs

While I personally don’t have any worries about my employer “opting to monitor” sensors in a smart watch (I run my own business) I have a broader concern about the general direction our society is heading by accepting the idea that it is OK for 3rd parties (employers, insurance companies, government, etc.) to monitor nearly every aspect of our lives. Granted, we as a society already give away a tremendous amount of information to 3rd parties such as cell phone companies who know who we call and where we are 24/7, credit card companies who know everything we buy, and internet marketing companies who track our every move online.

However, smart watches go a significant step beyond the vast amount of information already up for grabs every time we scan a customer loyalty card or pay for something by credit card. There is an axiom that once information is given away, it can never be taken back. There is also a rule that once information is given away, it is impossible to control how it is used.

For instance, Japanese Americans dutifully filled out U.S. Census Bureau forms in 1940 never expecting that data to be used against them a few years later. For decades the U.S. Census Bureau denied participating in the internment of over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. However government documents published in Scientific American in 2007 showed that the Census Bureau had in fact handed over names and addresses of innocent people so they could be forcibly relocated to internment camps.

While I don’t expect employers or insurance companies to punish “unhealthy behavior” with internment, the principle still exists that once personal data is surrendered to a 3rd party, the person who gave it away has lost all control over it.

In all likelihood I will be an early adopter of the new Apple smart watch because I like the idea of being able to read a text on my wrist. I just cringe a little every time I realize that this type of technology is taking us one step closer to the point where our technology can be used to control us rather than us controlling it.