Surveillance VS Virus: Does it Work? How Much is Enough?

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A surveillance camera bathed in blue light points off camera toward the left.

After China used location data to help track exposures, other governments around the world are testing out the idea. Using cell phone location data for surveillance is the most common method. While most western nations are offering reassurance that the data will be de-identified and only used in the aggregate, privacy and security experts are calling the idea into question.

While Governments Claim The Data Will Help. No Proof Has Been Provided

imply stating that surveillance will help is not enough. Especially given that surveillance has been shown to curb free speech and free association. Location data of the sorts governments are requesting is not typically granular enough to tell if people came within virus transmission distance of one another. Also, the people who tend to not have phones with location data are also among the most vulnerable; elderly people and the very poor. Widespread surveillance of this sort has yet to be shown as effective at keeping disease at bay. It has, however, shown to effect behaviors. The most obvious effect of surveillance is chilling protests, but some people even change who they speak with when observed. How much loss of freedom is acceptable?

In South Korea, the Data Have Been Misused Already.

Originally meant to warn people who had been to certain locations to go and get tested, their data use has devolved. Not only is the data now being used by private companies to create tracking maps, patients identified on the maps have been publicly attacked. One man was bullied so relentlessly he required psychiatric care. People are expressing fear of going to places they normally go. If they get ill, the whole country will know where they’ve been. At least one person has reported avoiding gay bars so as to not be outed to the entire country. Where does virus prevention end and big brother level control of citizens begin? What are your thoughts? Where do we draw the line? Let us know what you think about all this.


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