Opt-in or opt-out: what’s hubris got to do with it?


The above is the closing passages of this news article .  The comments on the article are worth reading.

The article is an ‘argument’ in favour of the ‘my health record’ database. This database is controversial for several reasons, one of which is the default setting is to be included.  This means it is an opt-out system.

Some people, like the author of the above, feel this is fine and use ‘the greater good’ argument to justify this stance. Most people, however, feel that opt-out arrangements do not allow for informed consent.

Organ donation is an opt-in set up, even though some passionately argue for it to be opt-out to increase donations.  An opt-out set up means, potentially,  an Individual will be harvested based on assumed consent.  With opt-in there can be no uncertainty.

Another Australian government initiative is the proposed weigh in of children at school:


This is because some people don’t know they can opt-out, or how to.  It is also because it ‘captures’ the apathetic.  These are the people who wouldn’t bother opting in, don’t bother opting out, and don’t actively participate.   These passive participants make ideal candidates.

Assumed consent, which opt-out set ups are, are strategic in many ways.

1. Capturing the passive participants

2. Identifying dissenters

3. Maximizing data collection


Informed consent, which opt-in set ups are, is more ethical. The power, and responsibility, is with individuals.   Opt-in set ups assume that unbiased information is readily available and that people can and will take the time required to make an informed decision.


So what has hubris got to do with it?

And how is ‘my health record’ a matter for greater good?

Surely all these personal issues should involve informed decisions?


Opt-out set ups are just a step away from compulsory set ups.  The only people who approve of something being compulsory,  are those that would opt-in if given a choice.

If hubris comes into it, it is not with opt-in set ups.



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