When your employer knows what you are eating

Way back when we published the Report on the Surveillance Society in 2006, one of the things we included in our vignettes of the future surveillance society was that companies would have extended their interests in their workers into their private exercise and dietary habits. And, lo and behold, the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and others are now paying employees to gain access to health and diet data “to lower health-care and insurance costs while also helping workers.” The measures include blood-pressure cuffs and other kinds of 24/7 medical monitoring, with the promise of special health and weight-loss programs for those showing signs of high blood pressure and obesity in particular.

The problem is not so much the authoritarian nightmare of order – that such schemes might become formally compulsory – but more that they will from being simply voluntary experiments to being informally expected or appended to employee performance assessments and reports, just ‘to help’. The ‘helping of workers’ via the monitoring of health and diet then becomes a form of soft control, an insidious organisational blackmail which incorporates private personal decisions into the purview of not just the employer but also the insurance industry which provides the health benefits in employee packages (in the USA at least).

(Thanks to Jenn Barrigar for the link)

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

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