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Personal Data Privacy vs The Greater Good: Part 2

To prevent a future pandemic, can the government mandate the wearing of health monitoring devices?

With the general, and generally healthy, populace at large would obviously present the most difficulty in releasing their information. Convincing the average person that they should have information about themselves, anonymous or not, uploaded to a notional cloud would likely prove extremely difficult. One could, however, hopefully equip enough of this cohort with devices to gather data so that an aggregate, could be put together. This would make it so that in conjunction with all the others that are wearing devices the information could be used to paint a clear enough picture to ascertain where an outbreak may occur. If such devices became fashionable, for example, there is every chance near-ubiquity would be attainable. Before the iPhone, it would have been difficult to predict that you would find smartphones in the purses and pockets of citizens from New York to Ghana, but now it’s stranger to find someone without a smartphone, no matter where one goes. The popularity of fitness bands such as the Fitbit have made headway into exactly this area, but they are a far cry from ubiquitous, obviously. Still, if there were a standard device for gathering compatible information that some could wear in a stylish watch, some could wear as earrings, or others hidden around an ankle, the reasons for wearing the accessory are unimportant as long as it’s worn by enough people. This approach just requires as many reasons to wear a device as possible—altruism, fashion, an insurance rebate, guilt…it doesn’t matter as long as the information is gathered.

So no, the government can’t mandate that everyone wear a health monitoring device, even to prevent a pandemic. Perhaps the solution could be found by using a shotgun approach as opposed to a rifle, enough of the population will have their own reasons to do so, and for whatever reason in the end will provide vital data in the fight against another contagion.

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