Imagine being in a life transition and the worst possible scenario occurs. This is what happened to Virgina Eubanks and her partner, Jason. When you get a new job your insurance switches and there may be a period of time when you are without. For Eubanks, her and her partner’s insurance had quickly started up — or so they thought. Jason encountered a very unfortunate accident which left them with high medical bills, pricey prescriptions, and physical therapy. They soon learned that the start date for their new insurance was after the incident. They had been red-flagged (Eubanks 2-3). Eubanks, determined to get what’s right, fought back. The thing about Virginia and Jason’s encounter was that she knew what was going on and knew what to do about it. Unfortunately, most people would not know the warning signs of a fraudulent scandal.
The truth us, there are an abundance of people that get used all of the time. It is unbelievably easy. The government, including insurance agencies, knows everything about everyone. This makes us, especially poor people and families, simple targets. We are always being watched. Eukbanks even states “digital tracking and decision-making systems have become routine…I started to hear them described as forces of control, manipulation, and punishment” (9-10). This is exactly what technology has done and is continuing to do. Low-income, working, and poor people/families get it the worst. Typically, if they are in this financial situation, they will not have access to all of the growing technologies. Because of this, it makes them easy to use and manipulate because even if it is the companies fault, most of the time they won’t take blame. Chances are these people will not know what’s going on nor how to handle it correctly. Therefore, they end up in a predicament where they owe all of this money that they don’t have leaving them drowning in debt or filing for bankruptcy. This being said, even if they do realize what is unfairly happening to them they most likely do not have the means to approach it through the court of law. On the other hand, they also do not have the financial income or stability to let insurance agencies, or any company for that matter, take advantage of them when they are already struggling. So, what do they do?
When I was reading this passage by Virginia Eubanks, it really opened my eyes. It made me think of the time when my mom had lost her job and we had lost our insurance. I remember her scrambling around to find something that would work. This happened again when my sister got her own insurance and we no longer were eligible for the plan that we had. Feeling like this for a short period of time was stressful enough, I couldn’t even imagine having to worry all of the time. Eubanks states, “poor and working-class people are targeted by new tools of digital poverty management and face life-threatening consequences as a result” (11). If life wasn’t hard enough, let’s just make it a little more complicated for those who are already struggling. If it wasn’t for having opportunities to technologies and resources, my mom wouldn’t have found an insurance for us as fast as she did. Not everyone has the ability to access technologies; therefore, they are always several steps behind and lacking necessities for everyday health, for everyday life.
- Since there is such a big group associated with digital poverty, what are some other ways information can be given and resources provided?
- Do you think that there are specific groups and people that get targeted more than others? If yes, why?
- Do you think companies should reimburse, or work with, people who experience an issue with them due to a technical error or glitch in the system?
- Which do you think is better in relation to companies and handling personal information: technology or actual people?
Source: Eubanks, Virginia. Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police and Punish the Poor.