Tracking entire populations now with electronic surveillance, facial recognition, and biosecurity sensors to combat the coronavirus pandemic will inevitably mean even more invasive forms of government spying later, privacy advocates warn.
From reporting by Natasha Singer and Choe Sang-Hun at the New York Times:
"We could so easily end up in a situation where we empower local, state or federal government to take measures in response to this pandemic that fundamentally change the scope of American civil rights," said Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a nonprofit organization in Manhattan.
As an example, he pointed to a law enacted by New York State this month that gives Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo unlimited authority to rule by executive order during state crises like pandemics and hurricanes. The law allows him to issue emergency response directives that could overrule any local regulations.
(…)In hundreds of cities in China, the government is requiring citizens to use software on their phones that automatically classifies each person with a color code — red, yellow or green — indicating contagion risk. The software determines which people should be quarantined or permitted to enter public places like subways. But officials have not explained how the system makes such decisions, and citizens have felt powerless to challenge it.
In Singapore, the Ministry of Health has posted information online about each coronavirus patient, often in stunning detail, including relationships to other patients. The idea is to warn individuals who may have crossed paths with them, as well as alert the public to potentially infected locations. "Case 219 is a 30-year-old male," says one entry on the Health Ministry's site, who worked at the "Sengkang Fire Station (50 Buangkok Drive)," is "in an isolation room at Sengkang General Hospital" and "is a family member of Case 236."
As Coronavirus Surveillance Escalates, Personal Privacy Plummets
This piece is fair and correct. Barring a vaccine miracle, we're getting out of this mess via testing, masks, and contact-tracing, not by shutting down the economy and starving instead of coughing to death.
What will suck is walking back the years of obtuse privacy 'debate'. https://t.co/WVMdcJKXAj
— Antonio García Martínez (@antoniogm) March 23, 2020
true but understates the case— it's not just our peace of mind at risk, it's physical safety, protections for fairness & due process, & protections against discrimination & exploitation. injured dignity shouldn't be minimized but it's not the primary harm.https://t.co/z1JigugUqW pic.twitter.com/g1L04pujWW
— Lindsey Barrett (@LAM_Barrett) March 23, 2020
When @sidneyfussell asked for my thoughts on enhancing surveillance to fight disease, I emphasized that creating Covid-19 response infrastructure incentivizes companies to find creative ways to benefit from mission creep. https://t.co/YoSxQar4aL
— Evan Selinger (@EvanSelinger) March 21, 2020
Even with the best of intentions, we must remember that no program is so permanent as a government program. Crises management without an eye to the future stands to erode civil liberties in ways we may not be able to easily roll back.https://t.co/jua6gT3wR4
— ₿ Michelle Ray ₿ (@RagnarsMate) March 23, 2020
Ratcheting up surveillance to combat the pandemic now could permanently open the doors to more invasive forms of snooping later. It is a lesson Americans learned after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, civil liberties experts say.https://t.co/Stkn7vNrWE pic.twitter.com/hhyyGCW8j9
— Rachel Thomas (@math_rachel) March 23, 2020
"In South Korea's highly wired society, however, internet mobs exploited patient data disclosed by the government site to identify people by name and hound them." https://t.co/iZR4O4Wq1h
— april glaser (@aprilaser) March 23, 2020
Facial recognition, GPS data, geofencing — the nonstop tracking that sparked the "techlash" could actually help flatten the curve and save lives. Should we treat Big Tech's coronavirus responses differently from its other, suspect "public good" measures? https://t.co/xMpxIpvZR8
— sid thee fussell (@sidneyfussell) March 23, 2020
"We could so easily end up in a situation where we empower local, state or federal government to take measures in response to this pandemic that fundamentally change the scope of American civil rights," said Albert Fox Cahn, exec. director of @STOPSpyingNY https://t.co/MQx8opQH51
— Albert Fox Cahn🔯 (@FoxCahn) March 23, 2020