Does anyone else find this sinister? Yesterday I received an email from my private Health Insurer, Medibank.
Medibank customers are now rewarded with ten Flybuys points for every day that they ‘achieve’ 10,000 or more steps on a linked Fitbit device.
A Fitbit device is an electronic bracelet that monitors an individual’s sleep, exercise, food and weight. The software enables an individual to self monitor and discipline their body. For example, one can set up a vibration reminder for activities such as bedtime, when to drink a glass of water and when to stand up and move around because you have been inactive for too long.
For anyone that knows me well you will be aware that I am a huge fan of receiving Flybuys rewards (and can see in my weekly personalised specials emails from Coles how this clever marketing tool is surveying and tracking my spending) and immediately forwarded this email to my flatmate who uses a fitness bracelet. Upon further consideration I found the sharing of this very personal information with a large Health Insurer problematic.
Why do I find this particular Medibank promotion sinister? The individual does not receive the Flybuys points unless they agree to their health insurer, Medibank, to having access to all of their person information collected by the Fitbit device. Medibank may initially reward the individual for their behaviour but in the future who knows how this information will be used?
Linking an individual Fitbit device to Medibank and giving this institution permission for access to days, weeks, months and years of personal health information. Medibank can subtly track your weight, your sleep, what you eat and so on. In essence Medibank could use this information to justify an increase your health insurance premiums. This clever and subtle data collection campaign highlights the careful and cunning aspects of discipline and self surveillance Medibank also hopes it’s customers will bring into their everyday life through the Fitbit device, making for docile customers that are less likely to suffer lifestyle induced health problems and thus increasing Medibank’s profits (Foucault 1991).
Will you allow your Health Insurer to access your day to day health data for the equivalent of 3650 Fly Buys, or in essence a $20 Coles music download?
Foucault, M. (1991). Part 3: Discipline. Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison (pp. 135-228). London: Penguin Books.