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Observations Reality Check

Privacy is theft—sharing is caring

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 05 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1320
  1. Ray Moynihan, author, journalist, and senior research fellow, Bond University, Australia
  1. RayMoynihan{at}

A top selling novel offers a glimpse of the future—when big data marries big medicine

“It’ll feel warm for a few days, then you and the bracelet will get used to each other,” says the glamorous Dr Villalobos as she attaches the electronic device to young Mae’s wrist, in order “to measure what we’d like to measure—which is everything.” The scene in the doctor’s surgery comes from Dave Eggers’s critically acclaimed new novel, The Circle, set inside a giant Google-like social media corporation.1

The book is an accessible, engaging, and at times hilarious masterpiece, set in a near future dystopia. It’s a timely attempt to understand how information technology is changing what it means to be human and why so many of us are embracing these strange changes. In The Circle, as in real life, we are willingly surrendering up the most intimate aspects of our individual and communal lives for corporate or political exploitation, including our personal health data. Recent revelations that England’s NHS may make patient data available to drug and insurance companies only serve to make The Circle’s insights even more prescient.2

The bracelet attached to …

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