Robot apocalypse back door
As the (incredibly self-appointed) AG correspondent on the robot apocalypse, I note with interest that Aetna, as in health insurance, is considering offering as a perk to new members an Apple Watch, as in a thing that attaches to your actual body and can, properly apped up, quantify your health.
As machine uprisings go, I grant it’s not Skynet sending drones to drop Bluetooth velociraptors all over your house. But – excuse me while I get my tinfoil hat – it’s not out of the realm, either.
As smarter people than me have put it, the best, indeed in most cases the only way to do something terrible and get away with it is to look like you’re doing something right. The really awful things always come smiling, wrapped in something we like.
But nobody does “smiling and wrapped in something we like” better than Apple. That’s certainly true of its adorable watch. What is also true of its adorable watch is that it’s a tool designed to monitor daily activity, and it’s fixing to be offered as a free gift to people who can charge extra for your health care, or indeed take it away entirely, based on your daily activity.
Insurance companies are not noted for passing up opportunities to profit, or for limiting their ability to do so out of respect for customers’ privacy.
Aetna could say “well, you didn’t get in enough steps today, your rate will be going up,” or “your heart rate was too high and you were at a location known for skydiving, that’s risky, rate up!” Without context, the massive data they could potentially get their hands on is tricky and could potentially be used against consumers.
On the other hand…
On the other hand, the thing about looking like you’re doing something good is it’s also a frequent characteristic of doing something good. For Apple fans, gadget fans and “what if smartphone, but small?” generally, an Apple Watch is a really nice gift. Aetna’s had a long term relationship with Apple and the Watch has been a big part of it: per Ars Technica, Aetna employees already receive Apple watches, and the two companies have partnered for an app suite to serve Watch owners specifically.
It’s not all Orwell either, mostly conveniences like bill pay, premium monitoring and prescription schedule management.
So maybe this one is more WALL-E than Dalek. I’m still watching the sky for those velociraptors, but in the interim, the Apple Watch perk, especially since thus far there’s no indication its use will be mandatory for Aetna policy holders, might, just might, not prove to be a tool of our robot overlords.