John Harris

Journalist & Author

Will having longer, healthier lives be worth losing the most basic kinds of privacy? | John Harris

Technology is playing a bigger than ever part in healthcare, but it’s a relationship that needs careful regulation

The deal has yet to be approved by the relevant regulators, but Google has got most of the way to buying Fitbit – the maker of wearable devices that track people’s sleep, heart rates, activity levels and more. And all for a trifling $2.1bn (£1.6bn).The upshot is yet another step forward in Google’s quest to break into big tech’s next frontier: healthcare.

Last month, in a Financial Times feature about all this, came a remarkable quote from a partner at Health Advances, a Massachusetts-based tech consulting company. Wearables, he reckoned, would be only one small part of the ensuing story: just as important were – and no guffawing at the back, please – “bedside devices, under-mattress sensors, [and] sensors integrated into toilet seats”. Such inventions, it was explained, can “get even closer to you than your smartphone, and detect conditions such as depression or heart-rate variability”.

Most British politicians seem barely aware of this new set of issues, which demand new rules and laws

Related: Will we just accept our loss of privacy, or has the techlash already begun? | Alan Rusbridger

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