Everyone struggles to imagine what the nation will look like by 2050. The nation’s culture, economy, governing, geography and community life all are up for grabs, a giant bingo hopper out of control.
At the center, the one entity capable of influencing all the above is government. In normal times, government changes its philosophies no faster than the most recalcitrant clique of its membership will allow; recently the GOP had a very conservative group break away to form the Tea Party wing of the GOP. This small group has made it difficult to make adjustments in government response to matters of the nation.
Covid-19 has invoked a national crisis of huge impact to the entire list mentioned above. Suddenly, a federal government locked in perpetual jousting came together to pass truly unique and citizen-focused legislation – an amazing phenomenon occurring within just a few weeks.
To switch analogies, government now is rolling along like a bowling ball. Change is unstoppable and many familiar pins will go flying. One is privacy. Readers know mariner is a privacy advocate but the privacy issue has exploded in articles and commentaries both online and in print.
The reason privacy is in the news is because the US and Europe are slowly adopting surveillance techniques used by China and South Korea to track the virus, those who spread it, and apply strict enforcement of violators. An example in China shown by NEWSY was about a woman who had been forced to quarantine. She had no water in her apartment and a day or two later left her apartment to get water from a nearby public spigot. When she returned, a neighborhood civilian called the woman and said she would be removed to a compound if she left her apartment again. The woman had been tagged as a continuous target with cameras focused on her building. There are two implications: her personal facial, body and historical profile are known and cameras everywhere are tied into large government databases.
In the US this raises concerns at a much more civil level. US intelligence and enforcement agencies already use similar techniques in an unofficial and unadvertised manner but as exceptions rather than blanket public policy. The excuse of the virus is giving these agencies and some private sector corporations the opportunity to at least set a precedent in the application of tracking technology. Just as believers in small government fear a big government has been let loose too much to cage again, so privacy advocates fear a similar permanent intrusion into one’s privacy.
And, if agencies can track everyone to squash the virus, they can track everyone all the time.