Paternalism and privacy

October 24th, 2006

I recently had a questionnaire posted to me by the council. It was to guage my physical activity and full of the sort of personal questions the Census misses out (but I jump ahead of myself here). It is for a scheme branded ‘Smarten Up”. I have a chance of winning a mountain bike if I hand over these details to quite whom I don’t know.

When I used to get this sort of marketing profile survey from private companies my second thought would invariably be what database this information would have been put on, and who the information would be shared with. So of course after temporarily rescuing it from the recycling pile I got to thinking how this information could be used for ‘my benefit’.
We’ll skip past the fantasy thought the council might dig up the local drive-through burger shop and replace it with a local swimming pool and such like. The question of whether the government’s relaxation of inter-agency data sharing restrictions is relevant at local government level is an issue but conceivably my GP could be notified of my wonderous athletic talents and send out a request for a check up at some appropriate moment, maybe a social worker could visit if my putative family doesn’t appear to be getting the exercise it so richly deserves.

Now, as I mentioned, these questionnaires for various issues fill in the Census gaps about how people are going about their business, taken individually, anonymously and with limited scope they could possibly help the council direct tax funds to provide ‘better services’, however we are most definitely on the cusp of an age where these non-anonymous (remember the bicycle bribe?) surveys can be aggregated and linked with some identifier like, oh… let us say, your NIR number. Yes that’s a good one because then any state agency can quickly find out about your lifestyle, and it can be transferred to some central data store so it may ‘follow’ you when you move from one authority to another. Hooray!

2 Responses to “Paternalism and privacy”

  1. meaumeau Says:

    maybe a social worker could visit if my putative family doesn

  2. irdial Says:

    The central theme behind this is the same one that is behind prohibition, the banning of vitamins and everything else to do with freedom: are you the property of the government or not?

    If a parent wants to feed their child until they are ‘obese’ then that is their right. If you want to shoot heroin, that is your right. If you want to smoke cigarettes, that is your right. If you want to open a bar and let people smoke in it, that is your right. If you want to take vitamin supplements, that is your right.

    All of these, and the innumerable other rights, as soon as they are broken, make you a slave to the government, and you instantly become property and not a free person.

    The faddish trend against being ‘fat’ is nothing more than that; a FAD. No doubt there will be people who think that feeding your children meat is a form of abuse.

    You cannot let anyone dictate to you how you bring up your children, or what you can or cannot ingest. The most insulting thing about this is that they attempt to compel you to pay them to control every aspect of your life.

    Once again, if you put your children on a register, then you are responsible for the bad that will follow. ‘The bad’ being that you will effectively be relinquishing your responsibility for them, and handing them over to the state as property.

    There is no ‘ideal weight’, and neither is there an ‘optimum life-span’. You can do whatever you want with your life, whatever you think is right, based on your own principles. That includes suicide right on down to taking an aspirin every day.

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