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Ubiquitous healthcare is an emerging area of technology that uses a large number of environmental and patient sensors and actuators to monitor and improve patients’ physical and mental condition. Tiny sensors gather data on almost any physiological characteristic that can be used to diagnose health problems. This technology faces some challenging ethical questions, ranging from the small-scale individual issues of trust and efficacy to the societal issues of health and longevity gaps related to economic status. It presents par- ticular problems in combining developing computer/information/media ethics with established medical ethics. This article describes a practice-based ethics approach, considering in particular the areas of privacy, agency, equity and liability. It raises questions that ubiquitous healthcare will force practitioners to face as they de- velop ubiquitous healthcare systems. Medicine is a controlled profession whose practise is commonly re- stricted by government-appointed authorities, whereas computer software and hardware development is notoriously lacking in such regimes.
”In this article we present a practise-based ethics approach, raising the questions to which medical and computing professionals will be forced to face up, as they collaborate to develop and deploy ubiquitous healthcare systems.”
This paper examines how ‘surveillance medicine’ (Armstrong 1995) has expanded the realm of the medical gaze via its infiltration of cyberspace, where specific features of healthism are now present. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of biopower, we examine how digital health resources offer new ways through which to discipline individuals and regulate populations. The emergence of health regulation within and through cyberspace takes place in a context wherein the relationship between the body and technology is rendered more complex. Departing from early literature on cyberspace, which claimed that the body was absent in virtual worlds, we articulate a medicalized cyberspace within which the virtual and corporeal are enmeshed.
Surveillance technologies gather, process, record, search and distribute information about individuals and their activities, sometimes partially at the instigation of the individual concerned. Privacy technologies restore some level of control over this data to the individual, reducing the ability of third parties to monitor their characteristics and activities without their explicit consent. There are two key trends in the development of surveillance and privacy technologies over the next decade: 1. Surveillance will increasingly be deployed for pre-emptive purposes by governments and companies. This is driven by an increase in computing capacity, miniaturisation of devices and improvements in performance, together with increased public use of digital media. 2. Without a stronger impetus from regulators, the limited economic viability of privacy- protective technologies to date and reliance on ineffective privacy solutions means that privacy protection is lagging behind the development of surveillance technologies. Taken together, these developments in surveillance and privacy technologies are likely to have a number of effects on identity over the next ten years, related to interpersonal trust, social mobility and conformity/obedience, and political pluralism.