London authorities have started forcing people convicted of alcohol related crime to wear ankle tags which monitor the alcohol content of their perspiration alerting the offenders probabation officer if they drink. Meanwhile in a healthcare and by extension health insurance context. Proteus digital health have developed a system where wearable and ingestible sensors work together to gather information about treatment compliance. (The system uses technology similar to the ingestable password pill that Motorola have been developing as reported by allthingsd back in 2013). Meanwhile wearables are increasingly being used for monitoring employees in the workplace , including as part of corporate wellness programs.
The upshot of all this is that we are seeeing the mass market application of something academics have been warning about for some time: Namely the use of wearable, ingestable and implantable surveillance technology to segregate and enforce behavioural compliance for the purpose of efficient population management. Given that we are already seeing the use of wearable monitoring devices for both healthcare and criminal justice applications it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine tags or implants being used by a rightwing government to distingush between ‘deserving‘ and ‘undeserving‘ recipients of wealthfare or healthcare at which point the uberveillance society will have well and truely arrived:
We are living in a period where chip implants for the purposes of segregation are being discussed seriously …We will almost certainly witness new, and more fixed forms, of “electronic apartheid.” … The next generation will view this technology as super “cool” and convenient and opt-in without comprehending the full extent of their compliance
We understand that technotherapeutics (as many other health technologies) may be initially welcomed by many of those they are intended to help. These technologies may provide individuals who are chronically ill with a sense of identity and even ‘empowerment’ about their adherence.
…… As has been observed historically, these technologies may ultimately become divisive and serve to differentiate the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’, or, in a bio-political sense, to differentiate those worthy of life (ongoing treatment and support) and those who the state should ‘let die’ (denied future medication or insurance coverage).
Overall, we understand technotherapeutics as serving to both discipline individual bodies and also to regulate whole groups of people deemed to constitute a threat to the collective body. In this sense, we consider that adherence work is above all a political project that endeavors to achieve optimal disease management (through surveillance and discipline), reduce the financial burden of treatment non-adherence on healthcare systems, and serve to further marginalize and differentiate ‘at-risk groups’ because of their unwillingness or inability to conform