Mandatory Tracking

Fitness trackers are convenient devices for tracking health related information. Unfortunately many organizations see genuinely good ideas and decide they must be mandatory. That’s what the Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma has decided:

Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is requiring incoming freshmen to wear Fitbit fitness trackers to record 10,000 steps per day, with the information being made available to professors.

“ORU offers one of the most unique educational approaches in the world by focusing on the Whole Person — mind, body and spirit,” ORU President William M. Wilson said in a statement, a local CBS News affiliate reported.

“The marriage of new technology with our physical fitness requirements is something that sets ORU apart,” he said. “In fact, when we began this innovative program in the fall of 2015, we were the first university in the world to offer this unique approach to a fitness program.”

The Fitbit device uses GPS technology to track how and where students exercise, eat and sleep, as well as the calories they burn, how much they weigh and other personal information, EAGNews reported.

This raises so many privacy related questions. How does the university verify each student has taken the right number of steps per day? Is the information synced to the student’s smartphone (assuming the student has a smartphone)? If so, is the data collected by an app created by the university or Fitbit’s app? If the latter does the university demand students hand over their Fitbit account credentials? Is the health data accessible at any time to the university?

More concerning is how this technology will be mandated in the future. Will health insurance companies begin mandating that customers must wear Fitbits and meet a certain number of daily steps? While one can choose not to attend the Orwell, err, Oral Roberts University they cannot decide to forgo health insurance less they be fined by the State. Could businesses require employees to wear Fitbits as part of a wellness program (one of my friends works a place where wearing a Fitbit is required to receive a health insurance discount but it’s not mandatory yet)?

Technology is great so long as it remains voluntary. It’s when organizations start mandating the use of a technology that things become frightening.

One thought on “Mandatory Tracking”

  1. The real problem here is the government’s mandating of health insurance. Absent that (and other illegitimate mandates and prohibitions by the government mafia), it’s just a matter of each individual picking and choosing the association(s) one wishes to make from the set of those available. Or starting one’s own competing organizations, or shaming institutions with silly rules.

    Could businesses require employees to wear Fitbits as part of a wellness program?

    Of course. I might not choose to work there, but there’s nothing in principle wrong with such a requirement, just as there’s nothing in principle wrong with requiring employees to wear bunny costumes.

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