Pandemic surveillance will be abused

Before using tools built by data harvesting companies to track the coronavirus pandemic, we must assume the tools will be abused, says Violet Blue at Engadget.

Our failure to contain coronavirus has nothing to do with failure of “invasive surveillance,” Blue says. It’s because autocrats in China and the wannabe autocrat in the White House refused to take coronavirus seriously in the beginning.

Surveillance advocates are trotting out the old canard of privacy vs. safety. But it’s not a “vs.” – privacy is a form of safety. When we have less privacy, we are less safe, from overreaching police, unscrupulous big business, terrorists and stalkers.

Israel and China are going full 1984.

On the other hand, countries like South Korea and Taiwan are balancing surveillance with privacy protection. Even Singapore, which otherwise ranks low on civil liberties and privacy protections, understand that it needs to protect privacy during the pandemic.

Singapore “clearly gets that if you treat your people’s privacy and data the same way Facebook does (or China, or Zoom for that matter), your problems are going to breed problems like tribbles,” Blue says.

These data collection tools were not built to save lives in emergencies: they were purpose-built for exploitation and abuse.

The only way to repurpose them safely and effectively is to treat them like they’re radioactive: we must proceed with the certainty that all virus tracking and tracing tech will be abused.

Violet Blue also outlines privacy problems with Zoom. It’s a privacy nightmare. I’m going to look for alternatives.

Mitch W @MitchW