Your data or your life

Are we witnessing the end of the concept of privacy? If Professor Yuval Harai of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is to be believed, this might happen sooner than we think.

At present,” writes Prof. Harai in the Q2 2017 issue of Influence, “Google, Facebook and the like focus primarily on your activities online and, to a lesser extent, your activities in the outside world – following you on your smartphone and with GPS, say. But the really important data is not what you click on online; it’s in your body – your DNA and biometric data, which can be extricated by biometric sensors. I think that the healthcare industry will convince most people to give up this data because, in exchange for giving up your privacy, you will receive much, much better care than ever before. In the conflict between health and privacy, health will win. People will be willing to give up the privacy of their own body. If you allow, say, Google to monitor your body, it could discover cancer when you have, say, just 10 cancer cells that are beginning to spread in your liver. This will be discovered when it’s easy and cheap to get rid of it. You won’t have to wait five years and go through chemotherapy. When people are offered this kind of ideal – give up your privacy and get the best healthcare in history – most of us will go for healthcare.”

Anyone who has spent some time in hospital will know that healthcare and privacy are not natural bedfellows. Perhaps the advent of virtual hospitals will push away the metaphorical privacy screens forever. It’s a far cry from the dystopian visions of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, but health might be evolving into the new privacy. If your body ticks the right boxes, you might get left alone. Until the next check-up, of course.

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