What are we to make of corporate ‘wellness’ initiatives, by which employees are encouraged to wear devices that can provide information on health and lifestyle to their employers?

Is this a slippery slope, which will lead to the state implanting chips at birth to report on children who have two helpings of Alpen for breakfast? Will an alert be sent to the health police if you have a crafty mid-morning fag or – against all the advice of top dentists – eat a slice of cake with your afternoon tea?

Of course, some jobs depend on being in peak condition, and a measure of testing may be required. (You wouldn’t want your aircraft pilot to be drunk in charge of the joystick.) Companies also have duties – and profit-incentives – to protect the health of the workforce. Not to mention the cost considerations of health insurance, for those still lucky enough to have such schemes.

But something in the human spirit rebels against this constant snooping. Not least because no state or company can guarantee the security of the information gathered, either from hackers or from the scores of agencies that are already starting to keep tabs on us.

A provocative article on The Conversation today argues that the British government should immediately put a total ban on all wellness-tracking. And for once, although this offends against the anti-regulatory spirit, it may be the lesser of two evils. Particularly if it stops our rulers from getting any bright ideas of their own.

by Winston Smith