One of the most insidious side effects emerging in our modern world of digital tracking and Big Data goes far beyond the loss of privacy -- it is the nearly inevitable move toward centralized behavior management and social engineering.
Much is being made of China's thorough dismantling of privacy and individuality through their "social credit system." Rightly so, but the U.S. is showing signs of going down the exact same path.
Not even one month ago, I reported that one of America's oldest and largest health insurance companies, John Hancock, would begin incentive programs by adding fitness tracking data to all life insurance policies.
The "Vitality" de facto rewards program can be tied into individual performance metrics:
Policyholders score premium discounts for hitting exercise targets tracked on wearable devices such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch and get gift cards for retail stores and other perks by logging their workouts and healthy food purchases in an app.
In theory, everybody wins, as policyholders are incentivized to adopt healthy habits and insurance companies collect more premiums and pay less in claims if customers live longer.
John Hancock’s U.S. life insurance customers can choose from a basic Vitality program in which customers log their activity in an app or website and can receive gift cards for major retailers after reaching their milestones, or an expanded program that offers wearable devices and discounts of up to 15 percent on premiums, among other benefits, the company said.
Still unknown to many is that this type of incentive program was expressly permitted under the Affordable Care Act. Now that the precedent has been established, it's a near certainty to see this type of insurance program spread far and wide.
However, it's not just health insurance that is taking note of how our troves of data can be used to "incentivize" us to become better citizens.
CNBC reports that a "New kind of auto insurance technology can lead to lower premiums, but it tracks your every move." It's another program that is set to spread quickly as smartphone apps continue to directly connect users to a host of databases - both private and government. My emphasis added:
The technology is called usage-based insurance. One company at the forefront is Ohio-based start-up Root Insurance, which recently raised $100 million in Series D funding, pushing Root's valuation closer to a $1 billion valuation. Root Insurance operates in 20 states around the country, with plans to expand service to all 50 states by 2019.
Auto insurance incumbents are also experimenting with usage-based insurance, fuelled by the ubiquity of smartphones and availability of telematics devices. Progressive Insurance, for instance, offers its customers discounts based on their driving through its "Snapshot" program. James Haas, business leader of usage-based insurance at Progressive, said it uses an app that tracks your driving and offers discounts and rewards for safe driving.
"The benefit for the consumer is both the encouragement of safer driving -- and the opportunity to earn discounts for that safer driving -- all in the way they want (either with the dongle or the mobile app)," Haas wrote in an email to CNBC.
In effect, the concept gamifies driving, and discounts are earned over time as a way to encourage drivers to keep the app running, which requires having location tracking turned on.
I would suggest that this not only "gamifies driving" but infantilizes these supposedly adult users. As a free human being, my personal "encouragement" to drive safer comes from not wanting to do harm to myself or others. This seems like a reasonable enough incentive to me without a literal nanny state setting up performance guidelines for me to meet or else face reprimand and punishment by my parent company.
Make no mistake, this is the very first step toward creating a China-like social credit system. All you need to get your reward is let the technocracy sit in the background collecting your personal data non-stop.
Even CNBC had to report the facts (my emphasis added):
But there's a catch. To build a profile, the app continuously sits in the background watching you.
The persistent monitoring is necessary to build a complete profile of a user, said Dan Manges, chief technology officer of Root Insurance. The company says it tries to be as upfront as possible that the app will monitor you at all times and can't be switched off without disrupting the trial period. Users can also manually disable its tracking features once the trial period ends, and while an untouched app will continue to gather data, Manges says it is used only to further refine their algorithm rather than re-rate an individual customer's premiums.
Additionally, "Root's app will follow the driver even when they are a passenger in someone else's car, or even on a plane."
But, not to worry:
Nicholas West writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon for as little as $1 per month. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.