Personal Data Privacy vs The Greater Good : Part 1
To prevent a future pandemic, can the government mandate the wearing of health monitoring devices?
The answer to this question is, quite simply, no. At least, not in most countries in the world without a radical change in societal attitude towards what constitutes personal freedoms. In a country such as the United States, even the suggestion of something being “mandated” by the government is sure to raise the ire of a huge percentage of the population. So then, what if medical science determines that in light of the first modern pandemic raging across the globe, the surest method of preventing another similar outbreak is to monitor the health of individuals on a real-time basis, with results collected and analysed for trends and decisions made with the health of an entire nation as the focus? Is there a way people would agree to this?
The solution likely lies in a combination of attitude changes and incentives to encourage enough people to opt into so that sufficient data can be collected to make informed decisions. Parents, for example, would probably like to know that the health of their child is being monitored and a greater chance of avoiding possible serious illness is achievable with a simple wearable device. In conjunction with the school system, it could be reasonably expected that a large percentage of those under 18 would be covered using a universal monitoring device. This Device could be configured to record health metrics and upload the results at the start or end of the school day and analysed for any concerning trends. The data would likely be anonymized for identity to ensure privacy while allowing trends around location, age, and other important factors to be considered.
We’ve seen the difficulties facing the long-term care industry laid bare in the face of the pandemic. It would likely be easier to have those under the care of others wear a health monitor. Care facilities are extraordinarily short staffed at the best of times, and a widespread health emergency stretches the abilities of homes and assisted living centres to their limits. A ubiquitous system of wearable devices, again uploading vital information that can be used to detect problems that can be caught in their infancy, would be to the benefit of all involved and do little to affect the privacy of those already under constant care.