Joseph Stalin: imagine how he could have exploited your Fitbit data Photograph: Hulton Getty
Well, for a start, anonymising data is incredibly hard to do. The bigger the datapool, the easier it is to triangulate data sets and home in on an individual. And while people can get thrown in jail for this sort of thing, algorithms are a lot harder to police. Has the computer told no to your mortgage application? Well, sorry, but there may simply be no human to blamed: the machine has figured things out on its own.
An even bigger worry is the way that, in our smartphone-enabled and meta-data-enriched world, complete knowledge of human affairs is becoming increasingly possible, inducing redundant the entire gamble of the assurances. At that point the scope for individual self-determination shrinks to zero and we are living in the world of Andrew Niccols excellent 1997 movie Gattaca.
Unregulated wellness programmes are imploring to be used as tools of surveillance, and thats not because anybodys actually doing anything wrong. Its because we have taken control of our own data, while at the same time forgetting that data ultimtely belongs to whoever can induce the most employ of it.
And it need not even be a problem, unless the class in power decide to replace social engineering with, well, engineering, health services with making and hacking, and civic societies with a desert, littered with the grinning skulls of people who aspired to west-coast radical self-reliance and failed.
Stalin and the Scientists by Simon Ings, is published by Faber& Faber( 20 ).