For the past three months I’ve been warning people about the dangers of contact tracing. I’ve said that if we continue to use centralized services to monitor potential spreaders of COVID-19, we should not be surprised if such methods are used for non-medical purposes.
Last week, when people (all across America) began taking to the streets to demand justice for the murder of George Floyd—Minnesota state authorities began contact tracing the protesters. Not because authorities were concerned about the protesters’ health/the spread of COVID-19—but because they want to use contact tracing to build an information network. They want to know who protestors are associated with, what their personal politics are, where they work, where they sleep. Within months, contact tracing went from being used to monitor a pandemic, to being used to monitor protestors.
Be worried, very worried
“Contact tracing” isn’t the next big leap in technological innovation. Instead, it’s a weasel word term for good, old-fashioned, state-driven surveillance.
Think I’m worrying too much? I’m not alone. Right now, former CIA analysts are sounding the alarm bells. Contact tracing of protestors is part of a worrying trend:
- Stifling of voters’ rights
- State-sanctioned threats of violence against political opposition
- Trump’s strongman displays of autocratic power
Are these signs of a nation that will play nice with personal data? Not at all. If the USA’s anti-democratic tendencies persist, they will use everything in their arsenal to quell opposition —including contact tracing.
Privacy is a human right
I’ve long said that privacy is a human right.
People who’ve disagreed with me have often asked, “If you have nothing worth hiding, why are you hiding it?”—as if to say that privacy presumes guilt and you’re guilty of something if you demand privacy.
Sorry, I don’t think autocrats, like Trump, have anyone’s best interests at heart. He certainly isn’t interested in basic human rights. Protestors have a good reason to cover their faces—and it’s not just because of COVID-19. If identified through contact tracing, the government will put people’s lives under a microscope. Trump and his sympathizers will do everything to strip the opposition of their dignity, as all-watching surveillance picks apart everything they do. The “Land of the Free” is doing its best to stifle freedom.
Privacy is a human right! Now, more than ever, we need to remember that and say “No!” to contact tracing.