Privacy vs. Surveillance in the Age of COVID-19

from Schneier on Security

The trade-offs are changing:

As countries around the world race to contain the pandemic, many are deploying digital surveillance tools as a means to exert social control, even turning security agency technologies on their own civilians. Health and law enforcement authorities are understandably eager to employ every tool at their disposal to try to hinder the virus ­ even as the surveillance efforts threaten to alter the precarious balance between public safety and personal privacy on a global scale.

Yet ratcheting up surveillance to combat the pandemic now could permanently open the doors to more invasive forms of snooping later.

I think the effects of COVID-19 will be more drastic than the effects of the terrorist attacks of 9/11: not only with respect to surveillance, but across many aspects of our society. And while many things that would never be acceptable during normal time are reasonable things to do right now, we need to makes sure we can ratchet them back once the current pandemic is over.

More here.

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  1. It is truly remarkable what this article has brought to my attention. I was not aware that countries such as South Korea, Israel, Italy, and Australia are using this newly prominent surveillance technology to keep a watchful eye on citizens that have the virus or could be exposed. The fact that in South Korea, they are tracking people’s phones, movements, and credit card records as the new norm if the virus is present is truly frightening. I understand that government officials want to protect their citizens, but is this truly the correct way to do so? Many people are not following social distancing the correct ways and if they are in a position to endanger others more drastic measures should be taken, but to go to these lengths makes me believe that this surveillance is a test run for the future. Although this pandemic is an unprecedented time in our world, it would be the perfect time to test out this type of technology. What would this truly mean for our society? Would people be afraid to go places with the fear of knowing that they are being watched? Or would we not truly be aware? All of these questions come to mind. The way I see it, the Corona-virus will be a catalyst of many things that are going to be changing when it is all said and done. Privacy deficiencies may be one of the most prominent, along with the obvious market crashes and hundreds of thousands of sick people. Fear can also derive from this and I believe that this intense surveillance will only cause lack of trust between the government and its citizens.
    This reminds me of a time when I was younger and my parents monitored everything that I did because they were not sure if I was trustworthy quite yet. However, our government seems to be unable to trust adults. There should at least be some sort of privacy regulation put into place so that every aspect of the citizens life is not being controlled. There is no way to stop this development considering that technological advances are increasing every year, but if we can control such to keep society in order, I’d vouch for that idea.

  2. With the COVID-19 overtaking many countries around the world, certain countries are making an effort to ensure citizens are maintaining self-quarantine. South Korea is a prime example of using a GPS based app to ensure its citizens are staying home. Any attempt of leaving will set an alarm off on the phone. Hong Kong is using wrist monitors should someone return from traveling to ensure they are self-quarenting after their trips. At the end of the day, countries want to contain the virus as much as possible and citizens need to cooperate and stay in their homes unless absolutely necessary to leave.
    The virus is turning people to be very untrusting of fellow citizens. It’s hard to determine who has the virus and who does not have it since their very little research due to the creation of the virus 3 months ago. Using surveillance on people will just create a more untrusting culture if utilized in America. Everyone is told to stay at home and it’s very difficult for the government to trust its own people with the number of cases growing rapidly. COVID-19 is certainly turning the entire world upside down, but using surveillance to monitor people is not that way to go.

  3. This article states what I feel everyone is thinking, including myself because no one knows what the future will hold after COVID-19. Governments around the world are being forced to tell people what to do and how to act in order to combat the spread of this virus. For now, this is commendable because of the circumstances, but will it continue after the spread has been contained? What makes me feel most uncomfortable is the fact that governments are using surveillance to monitor people during these times.

    I understand that these are exceptional times and sometimes things can’t be avoided, but as Cindy Cohn points out, “we must make sure that these measures end and that the data collected for these purposes is not re-purposed for either governmental or commercial ends.” (Schneier) We all know that if left unchecked, governments will repurpose this data and store it for potential later use. This should not be allowed anywhere in the world, but especially in the United States. I argue that it is unconstitutional to do so because of the unwarranted invasion of privacy after the pandemic ends. We must remain hypervigilant to ensure that privacies are not infringed upon and come up with ways to combat this. Creating awareness around this topic should be just as important, if not more so, than the virus due to the potential ramifications that could cause lasting impacts.

  4. As this pandemic grows, governments in every country are taking drastic measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 to end the pandemic as soon as possible. Indeed, the measure that almost all countries have applied and the most effective has been to stay at home. As everyone is at home, a large number of infections are being avoided, which makes the infection curve slow down and gradually return to normal. In countries like China, specifically in Wuhan, the focus where this whole pandemic began, after 57 days of confinement, citizens are returning to normalcy and returning to their daily routines. But how can the authorities know if the citizens are really at home? In some countries, such as Spain, the police work to keep everyone at home but there is no way to prove that everyone is staying home all the time (they can go and buy the essentials). For this reason, countries like China and South Korea have implemented technology to track population movements and know for sure who is at home and who is not. This creates a great debate because, even if it is used as a measure to contain the pandemic, this is a violation of privacy. After all, by implementing GPS technology, the government knows where you are at all times. In my opinion, this measure exceeds the limit as they cannot trace citizens in this way, they should trust them and punish those who do not comply with the quarantine through the police.

  5. Ever since the coronavirus has hit several other countries, each country has been emphasizing on staying home so that it will not put people at risk of getting the virus since it is so easy to get. It has changed everyones lives because the country have been strict on not allowing large gatherings of people and making sure that we stay a certain amount of space between each person. Now people are being monitored even more to make sure that there aren’t any potential problems with others going outside often, and also other countries have been monitoring every step of their citizens like in China in order to not affect others. In the United States, we are not monitored as heavily as other countries but it still makes me and others uncomfortable since society is being monitored even more because of the precautions that we have to take now. Especially in New York, the cases have been growing at a fast rate and the city is almost empty since the state has made it very clear to only go outside during emergency situation.
    Since it is so hard to know who has the virus or not since the symptoms show up a week or two later, it is hard to be near any stranger and has caused fear in social interaction among others because most people don’t even know they might have it until the very last moment. Just breathing can cause someone getting the coronavirus if the person is infected which now leads to mostly all the businesses undergo telecommuting indefinitely.

  6. The current COVID-19 pandemic presents many countries in the world a problem that they have to solve which is to decrease and discourage the spread of the disease and infection as much as possible since there is no vaccine and any antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Current efforts to prevent the spread of the virus include social distancing (the act of maintaining physical distance from others), hand washing, quarantining, implementing travel bans as well as lockdowns. Some nations around the world are using technology and combining that with the current pandemic to enforce their prevention guidelines.

    China in the past has been known for its use of technology to invade others’ privacy as well as using surveillance to further enforce that measure. The moral of the story is that China is no enemy to the use surveillance and technology to violate people’s privacies; China in this age of the pandemic violated many of its citizens privacy by surprise visiting every single household in affected areas (especially households in the Hubei province and it’s capital Wuhan), took temperatures and isolating the infected from the noninfected for observation and treatment. I feel like I have mixed opinions on China’s solution to the problem; I disagree with the dire need to visit every household just to take temperature but I do understand that by doing this and isolating the infected, this could drastically decrease the number of COVID-19 cases in the long run as the disease itself could be asymptomatic meaning there could be silent carriers who aren’t exhibiting symptoms.

    Similar to China but to a lesser degree, Hong Kong also has implemented strict measures to control the outbreak even if it means violating it’s citizen’s privacy through surveillance. When you first land in the airport, you are required to download an app throughout the 14 days of quarantine that gives it camera, Bluetooth and background location permissions. Additionally, an electronic wristband is given to you so that the government can track your movements and that your not avoiding quarantine whereas if so, government officials will visit your household and you will end up with a hefty fine. Therefore I believe a stricter and more draconian like measures to manage a nation’s citizens’ movements are detrimental to curb the spread of the disease. The answer is clear: Hong Kong successfully contained the outbreak of COVID-19 through strict measures and there are now less drastic increase in cases, unlike the US where late actions and ignorance to the crisis now makes the nation with the most COVID-19 cases in the world with daily numbers doubling.

  7. Outside of the article, the main issue I have with surveillance becoming more prominent and more “predatory” is that there are officials out there using the (now passed) stimulus bill as a means of pushing a law and following guidelines that would extend the powers of the Freedom Act of 2001.

    This is the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020. In which it would reauthorize Section 215 of the Act in 2001. This allows security agencies to commit an enormous amount of unprecedented searches into every American citizen’s data. This is not some terrorist threat that needs to be consistently monitored, this is a global pandemic. Really, the only kind of monitoring that should be done is just preventing people from ignoring any sort of quarantine recommendation or laws put into place. That is the larger issue at hand, and I believe that there are ways to go about this without infringing on peoples’ individuality and freedom.

  8. I understand the considerations that are being made to implement all surveillance tools in favor of the greater good. COVID-19 is affecting our society greatly, and to stop it, the expected measures have been implemented. However, the measures have proven to be effective only until a certain extent. Many people are objecting to follow the mandated measures, which obviously prevents the infection rates from decreasing. In high risk areas, the control is very strict. Actually, in the stimulus package, a large amount of money has been sent to the department of defense to deploy troops under the command of the national guard. The rates are increasing significantly regardless because, despite all the efforts, many areas, specially of lower risk, are not having a very strict control due to the difficulty that imposing this control nationwide implies. The vigilance and monitoring tools can be very helpful to control the compliance of the measures. Monitoring civilians may be the most efficient way to make sure that they are sticking to the mandated commands that have been ignored by many. As any other major decision made by the government, we must assume that the benefits of effectuating this solution are higher that the costs, which will mainly include a major invasion of privacy to the public. I agree that the major good should be considered as prioritario, however, I believe that the magnitude of the consequences should also be considered. The invasion of privacy is a controversial topic as it has been applied by large corporations to collect data. However this has always been limited to a certain activity under the vigilance of a specific corporation. In this particular situation, we are facing an invasion of privacy through all the possible mediums. If access to private data and vigilance reaches such extent, inmensurable data will be exposed to the government and who knows if breaches could also signify a threat. Regardless of how effective it is, I believe that once the situation ceases, we will all live in constant paranoia wondering if the government still keeps an eye on us at all times.

  9. The coronavirus, which initially started in the city of Wuhan in China, has spread to be a global disease as it is now present in almost every country in the world. Being classified as a pandemic early last month (March), the disease has now spread to 1 million people resulting in over fifty thousand deaths, leaving many to wonder what can be done to stop it. Some of the strategies already being used, such as social distancing ourselves by staying 6 feet apart and keep ourselves to our homes, have shown moderate success but still nowhere near enough to put much of a dent into the upsurge of cases related to the virus. Therefore, leading to many governments around the world, including the U.S. to take the first steps towards more extreme measures to halt it’s spread, such as using digital surveillance tools to spy on residents by using their own security agency’s technologies on the public. In a recent post on his blog titled Privacy vs. Surveillance in the Age of COVID-19, Bruce Schneier discusses these tactics and what their long-reaching effects on society may be. One of the most interesting things discussed was how powerful and long-lasting the effects of the virus might be. With the majority of us all knowing how severe and long-lasting the effects of 9/11 were on the world permanently changing how things were done, Bruce makes a bold statement on what the effects of the coronavirus may be. By saying that they will trump those of 9/11, “I think the effects of COVID-19 will be more drastic than the effects of the terrorist attacks of 9/11: not only with respect to surveillance but across many aspects of our society”. Saying this, however, may not be too outlandish as there is no doubt the virus will change how we interact, similar to how 9/11 changes how we went about flying. One of the other thing 9/11 brought with it was the creation of the patriot act, changing the way the government surveilled its civilians, which could be quite similar to the vastly increased surveillance measures the government may do after the virus. These measures could go far beyond those that the patriot act had as technology has substantially increased, thus proving the authors point that the effects of the virus will be larger than that of 9/11. Now, if this happens or not is entirely up to the government, which doesn’t exactly have the most exceptional track record when it comes to these types of things. In the post, one expert Cindy Cohn said all that won’t be a problem if “these measures end and that the data collected for these purposes is not re-purposed for either governmental or commercial ends” now, as myself and author both agree the chances of that happening are slim to none as the author stated that “I worry that in our haste and fear, we will fail to do any of that”. Therefore, leading to a vast increase in surveillance to take place following the end of the virus, now only time will tell if that will happen or not. If I were betting man, however, I would put my money on the fact that post virus, the increase in government surveillance, will either be equal to or dwarf that of the patriot act.

  10. In a world of living in an already electronic dependent society, the coronavirus quarantine just multiplied the magnitude of how much we depend on technology even more to survive! The quarantine has forced many workers to work from home and all schools have opted to use online learning as the alternative for classes. So, most of us truly now depend on technology more than ever to either get aa paycheck or get a 4.0. On top of that, I don’t know if I can speak for everyone in America but while I’m stuck in the house is seems like I’m more on my laptop and watching Netflix more than I ever have before!
    What didn’t click in my mind until reading this article was all of the hackers and snoopers now taking advantage of everyone being online and now hacking their laptops. In fact, the blog specifically states, “Yet ratcheting up surveillance to combat the pandemic now could permanently open the doors to more invasive forms of snooping later.” I’d imagine that this time period is a hackers dream to be a part of!
    Something the blog also mentions is that “I think the effects of COVID-19 will be more drastic than the effects of the terrorist attacks of 9/11: not only with respect to surveillance but across many aspects of our society. And while many things that would never be acceptable during normal time are reasonable things to do right now, we need to makes sure we can ratchet them back once the current pandemic is over.” You know, I had to read this over and over because the writer saying that this could be even more drastic that the events of 9/11 is just mind baffling to me. It really opens my eyes to how much of a hole the world has dug itself into.

  11. It was interesting that the article mentioned that the after COVID-19, the world may change even more than it did after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. After the attack national security became much more elaborate than it was in the past. In airports especially more limitations as to what could be brought onto planes was introduced. There are now many more steps to get through to your gate. This happen not only in America but countries around the world. Between the various medical outbreaks in the 2000’s and 2010’s medical screening for international travelers also became much stricter. When traveling to certain countries or back from them to America people get their temperature and even their blood tested to verify that they are in a healthy condition to fly.

    Personally, I have never traveled internationally, only domestically and even then, maybe once every five years or so. Although my experience with travel is limited, I can say that I have never been tested or screened when flying intrastate. After the COVID-19 pandemic I think this is something we can expect to change. The world that I grew up in is much different from the world my parents grew up in during the 70’s. And as we get older, we are starting to see changes over time – our kids, whenever we have them, are not going to grow up the way we did as a result of this crisis.

    This much is true concerning not only health safety much privacy in the real world and online. We already know that Apple, in a close second to Google, knows more about who we are then almost anyone else – including our families. Every move we take online becomes apart of our footprint, things we buy, sites we subscribe to, etc.. Since pop-ups and adds are already capable of catering to our wants staying inside instead of going to the store is probably going to be a smoother adjustment than we thought. Granted, food shopping online is difficult at the moment, but only because the servers are so overloaded. After the pandemic when the curve begins to flatten, I think more and more people will opt to stay inside just because it’s efficient.

    Speaking about disruption in class and how virtual reality is undeniably going to be used either in the near or far future, I it is scary to think of just how different life will be in 10-20 years. Will people even travel to work? Think of the emissions we would save if nobody was taking cars to work. After only 2 weeks of people staying inside people have started to see the stars in China and the water in the Venice canals became clear. As much as it might be good for us to stay inside more, I can only imagine what it would be like to raise a child who attends virtual school, plays virtual sports or goes to virtual play-dates. Is that what we want? Do we want to live in a world that isn’t tangible? I honestly don’t know where we’re headed but it’s only a matter of time before we find out.

  12. We are currently living in extraordinary times as COVID-19 continues to cause destruction throughout the world. Many countries have begun to use surveillance and other forms of making sure citizens are following stay at home orders. While the intention of these countries might be to keep the public safe and ensure people are following government orders, I found this to be pretty troubling. If countries are monitoring people’s movements and have the capabilities to do this, then there is no one to monitor the countries. The governments of these countries do not have to answer to anyone and like the article states there is nothing from stopping them from doing later in time. I think it is important to make sure citizens are following stay at home orders but it seems a little extreme to GPS monitor your own citizens. There is nothing stopping these governments from continuing to monitor their citizens after this pandemic is over and that is the scary part.

    It will be interesting to see if the United States would consider doing something like this and even if they would make it public knowledge. Some people could argue this would never happen in this country because we are a free country but it is happening in other free countries like in the United Kingdom. Local governments there are using drones to track their citizens and when they find citizens leaving their homes for something as simple as going for a walk, they are taking this video and publicly embarrassing people. Maybe public embarrassment is the only way to get people to stay at home but to me it seems too extreme. I do not think the United States would GPS monitor their citizens during this time as we cannot even get a federally mandated stay at home order even after we have the most cases in the world. This would open a whole new door of issues and honestly there is nothing stopping our government from doing this to us. This could even continue after this pandemic is gone.

  13. It’s no surprise to anybody that the COVID-19 pandemic has reached unimaginable heights. This has truly been an unexpected outbreak as the world continues to demonstrate how unprepared we are in case of such an emergency. But most importantly, how uninformed. The lack of international knowledge and response are the greatest factors to blame when faced with new hardships. Social distancing brings a plethora of issues that impede on the simple nature of our everyday lives. But now, social distancing has begun to involve legal complications. The article, “Privacy vs. Surveillance in the Age of COVID-19” explains why.

    Social distancing is crucial for survival. That’s something I never thought I would need to write down. Furthermore, the obligation to keep their citizens safe has countries utilizing the more drastic approach or surveillance. “As countries around the world race to contain the pandemic, many are deploying digital surveillance tools as a means to exert social control, even turning security agency technologies on their own civilians.” Surveillance is a complicated legal matter that ignites controversy at any given chance. The balance between legal justice and the morality of respecting the privacy of the citizens of a nation, is not exactly at a 50:50 weight distribution at this moment in time.

    The author then compares the issues of surveillance and social control regarding COVID-19, to those of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, claiming the effects will be more drastic. It’s a rather bold statement that I’m not entirely in agreement with. “not only with respect to surveillance, but across many aspects of our society.” I suspect national, even global protocols in place for the next pandemic, but I am curious how society would change beyond that. I hope an increased appreciation for life is something that does change. Throughout news stories and our everyday lives we have experienced and seen drastic changes. But that does not mean they’re permanent. In actuality, this issue is in the hands of the civilians and their willingness to abide by the regulations set in place, not the figures in power. There’s a certain legal extent a nation will go to in order to protect its citizens. I don’t think an invasion of privacy should be one of them.

  14. With the expansion of the COVID-19 outbreak, the growing question is how to slow down the spread. Many citizens of the United States have turned to places like South Korea to see how widespread their governmental response is and compares it to the United States in their efforts to attack this invisible threat. In doing so, South Korea used a countrywide surveillance system to track who had the virus and where they went to ultimately track and control the spread. And by doing so they were able to streamline the uses of tests for the people who had contracted the virus and help treat them for the sickness. Many compare the United States and South Korea due to country size and population etc and say that the US is falling behind and are not working as hard but they have a jump on the US due to their CCTV equipment. For Americans, the question that needs to be asked is if this is something that should be implemented here. The main question at hand is an invasion of privacy, but others throw that question out of the window when they hear the possible response and slowing down of the virus. Before the government comes to a complete decision, the most important question that needs to be asked, which was brought up in the article is what happens after this is all over. Many believe that the average person has good internal intentions, but what does humanity have to hold up to that thought and even if this is true, what happens when this equipment gets into someone not like the average thinker. These are the true questions that need to be asked and put into consideration before implementing something like surveillance systems around the country.

  15. What I found to be particularly interesting about this article is the fact that the impact of COVID-19 is going to be much greater than the impact of 9/11 in the surveillance aspect. This article was full of highly controversial points that really opened your eyes to how the world is going to look once the virus has passed. I personally haven’t really thought about the fact that there has been increased surveillance because of the virus, but it is entirely possible that the government will not lower the amount of surveillance they conduct once the virus has passed. Following 9/11, the Patriot Act was passed which allowed for an extreme increase in the surveillance of American citizens. It is quite possible that there will be some form of legislation passed once the virus has passed that will allow for even more surveillance. We are living in an age where our privacy is constantly being encroached upon, whether we know it or not. Our virtual footprint is huge and literally everything that we do that involves technology can and is being watched by some organization. I think that this article should be read by many more people because it is important the citizens of this country learn what our government is capable of in regards to invading your personal privacy.

  16. Its crazy to think that life as we know could all change from a virus. I never imagined that a virus itself could cause surveillance and privacy problems. One major thing that stood out would be the aftermath of this compared to 9/11. It almost sounds unthinkable to think that our country could be even more cautious now than after 9/11. If they do ratchet up surveillance how would this start effecting laws? I feel as though this definitely would be frowned upon by most Americans. There is so much information about each and everyone one of us online in some capacity due to our phones, and social media usage, however this just may seem to be a bit extreme. Hopefully, if this were to come to light, there would be a good amount of protection for American citizens.

  17. This is an interesting and touchy subject. During this pandemic, we’ve told many citizens that they must remain in their homes, and limit their contact with others. While many are taking this seriously, many are also ignoring such advisory and doing their own thing. Obviously, the more people we have following these orders, the quicker we all can return to normal life — therefore, we need to think outside the box to solve these issues. Currently, in many countries, offenders are forced to wear ankle monitors, and face jail time for breaking these restrictions. But for many, this raises privacy concerns.

    In my opinion, I couldn’t care less. I personally think we need to take extreme measures to combat the spread of this disease. And if that makes people feel a bit uneasy, then so be it. However, I can also understand many people’s concerns. Many are probably thinking —- “if we let the government / higher ups control even more of our privacy, then this will open specific doors…”. This could be true, and this is definitely something to consider. However, the government pretty much can already find out where I am at any time via my cellphone, so therefore I’m not that worried. I don’t know — for me, I just think that public safety and the control of this pandemic is way more important than my sense of privacy. I’m willing to allow enforcement to take more extreme measures to limit the spread of COVID-19; I may be different from many in this regard.

  18. As stated in the article, I agree that law enforcement and health authorities are going above and beyond with what they presume to be necessary. I feel our privacy is being greatly abused and the pandemic is just another way they can trick citizens into believing that it is to protect us. I recently watched a live video of doctors in a southern state force a man to take medications for the COVID-19 virus when he came because of a cough ad chest pain. They also ended his live with the phone falling and him pleading for them to call his emergency contact and not touch him. This is what they see as necessary during this pandemic because they are fearful for their life and must do what they see fit. They showed this man no mercy whatsoever, I can not go to the hospital and be provided with proper medication for something as simple as possible allergies since this is allergy season. Overall, the government is using this pandemic as a cover-up to do what they’ve been doing for decades and will further continue doing following the COVID-19 virus.

  19. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the United States daily, and the numbers are continuing to rise. The effects of the virus are going to affect the everyone and everything following the end of the pandemic. The article states, “I think the effects of COVID-19 will be more drastic than the effects of the terrorist attacks of 9/11: not only with respect to surveillance, but across many aspects of our society. And while many things that would never be acceptable during normal time are reasonable things to do right now, we need to makes sure we can ratchet them back once the current pandemic is over.” Over the past two months since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, we have seen the stock market crash due to the fears of the spread of the corona virus. We have seen businesses be affected tremendously from the manufacturers in China being shut down when they were trying to contain the spread of the virus. Numerous states have closed all non-essential businesses, impacting revenues for local businesses across the U.S.
    Some states and countries have deployed digital surveillance back into play to try and notify local officials when a civilian isn’t engaging in the new social distancing laws. Although these new ways of surveillance can help local authorities know who is abiding these new laws, it disturbs the privacy rights of civilians. Also, after this is over, what is going to let the civilians know once these surveillance systems are turned off again. The government could keep the social distancing laws in affect even after the pandemic has been declared to be over. It isn’t the worst idea to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but civilians are going to lose privacy rights as long as surveillance systems are up and running.

  20. When facial recognition was incorporated into phones it was because only one person could have that face. Face recognition was considered more secure than fingerprints which came to be because passcodes were becoming insecure. But with more protection with face recognition also comes the invasion of privacy. Many people cover their phone cameras and computers and disable their microphones because they believe the government is watching or listening. More and more people use VPNs to better protect themselves, prevent tracking, their search history, and block pop ups. If companies are able to gather data from applications and search histories and then sell it for profit. The government could gather data from people with facial recognition but is how they use the data that would determine how the people react. People feel protected by the laws banning facial recognition but others would agree that looking into the future is better.
    In the era of a global pandemic many are becoming untrusting of the government and of fellow citizens. There is no way to know if you are talking to someone infected or not and also it comes into question how much do we really know and what they are not telling us. Technology is evolving with the years and due a pandemic privacy should be violated because they might just be using the situation to deplete the privacy of the people by wrapping it like it’s helping reduce the amount of infected individuals. Someone is always gonna look to take advantage of the devastation that COVID- 19 is causing. This pandemic is changing the way of life, it’s gonna change the way we work, the way others work and where our priorities as people should be.

  21. I think this article brings up the fact that a lot of things are changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We see that the economy is taking a big hit, people are losing their jobs left and right, the government is trying to help out the impacted citizens, and everyone is staying in place to slow down and ultimately stop the spreading of the coronavirus. I think something that is not so focused about is the ideas of our privacy. In a world where people are not staying inside, the governments have no choice but to look into data that shows exactly where they have been. In Hong Kong, “In a bid to curtail a rise in COVID-19 cases, arrivals are tested, instructed to download a government mandated app – StayHomeSafe – and wear a wristband that is linked with the app” ( ). Are we really to blame these extreme tactics to watch the citizens in a bid to stop a killer virus that has put life at a standstill? I don’t, but it will definitely raise concerns about whether the government can tap into information such as our location in order to keep us safe. I think this will impact the business world in the sense of contracts holding up the right for privacy. It will be important for citizens to fight for privacy and holding onto our rights, because if they take away our privacy in the name of the “safety” of citizens, they can do a lot more and if it goes too far, then we will live in a completely different world.

  22. The issue of public safety verse personal privacy is an argument that has been dividing Americans since 9/11. When a terrorist attack, or pandemic in this case, threatens the livelihood of everyone in the United States, people get scared. And when people are scared for their lives, the more likely they are to be willing to give up their rights to their privacy in an effort to feel more secure. This is exactly what happened after 9/11 which, although making citizens feel safer, allowed the government to tap into and listen to Americans phone calls. After the panic from the 9/11 attacks was finished, all of this legislation, specifically the PATRIOT act, were still operating, allowing the government to surveil us without much we could do about it. This eventually caused huge outrage. I would not be surprised if a similar outcome arises out of this pandemic. As the highly contagious disease travels across the globe, people are scared and need to know not only where it is spreading but who has it. There are many methods of social analysis using media, and information that’s available from companies aides in tracking the spread of coronavirus. Many healthcare and those researching the spread of the virus are trying their hardest to prevent themselves from violating the privacy of American citizens. Our cell phones are another interesting device in terms of the information about us that it reveals. Because your phone will send it’s location, companies can already track your location data and see what stores you’ve been too recently. But this can also be used to see where people have and are traveling, it is being used to consolidate data and the effects of quarantining, who actually is and who isn’t, and where people are traveling too that may be affected. The worry is that with such a concern over tracking the virus, that certain organizations or institutions will take advantage of this increase in surveillance like has happened in the past. It is easier too pass legislation than to remove it, and so it is important to make sure that nothing sneaky is being slid under our radar.

  23. While the sliding scale of freedom versus security is a centuries old debate, the COVID-19 pandemic has, as poignantly detailed in Mr. Schneier’s blog, once again brought this issue to the forefront of global society. As a citizen of the United States of America, I am particularly interested in seeing whether the state-mandated quarantines end up weakening or strengthening government power in American society. On the one hand, the mandated quarantines across the country have resulted in large upticks of government responsibility as many people look to their state and federal governments for direction and finances in the wake of shuttered businesses and country-wide worry over the ever-growing swath of cases. On the other hand, these same measures taken by the government have resulted in widespread protests, and in some cases, outright defiance of these laws, to include armed protests outside houses of state governments. It is my belief that the upcoming election will prove crucial in determining which of these two factions wins out.

    While I believe it is unlikely that the USA will see anything on the level of the autocratic strongmen behind the Chinese crackdown and full assimilation of Hong Kong as detailed by the Economist, I am of the opinion that we must remain vigilant, particularly when regarding cases dealing with increased levels of digital surveillance. In concert with the worrisome tone expressed by Mr. Schneier in his blog, the New York times points to a new law recently enacted by New York state that grants the Governor unlimited power during state crises, which allows the sitting Governor to override any local regulations in the name of emergency response directives. That being said, oftentimes local governments have a better grasp of what the people who live in their localities need, including during emergencies. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, not every city and town in the USA has been hit the same, and I believe that a careful hand is needed, with a stricter response only in the areas that have the highest case levels, in order to prevent the generational devastation that poverty and a national depression brings, while still keeping as best a lid on the pandemic as we can.

    Economist on Autocrat power seizes during the pandemic:

    NY Times on privacy and the Covid-19 pandemic:

    As another commenter, 1&1~=Umm, remarked on the original blog post, “Once such a system is up and running few will want to scrap it as it will be seen as an investment in the future”. I believe this is a valid concern, and I think that steps must be taken to ensure that drastic actions taken in the interest of protecting the public from the pandemic should remain temporary measures. While we must remain alert and prepared for the future, living in constant fear of another disaster will result in the gradual diminishing of the freedoms we currently enjoy in American society. I believe that disasters will continue to happen, as they have always happened throughout the course of history. While what we are going through is devastating, I believe that it can be said that, taken from a historical perspective, we have all made sacrifices that have resulted in a much lower death toll for this pandemic compared to other instances throughout time, such as the Spanish flu. It is important that we not waste the sacrifices we have made by stripping away the freedoms that have enabled our country to flourish. It is my firm belief that, while we must continue to combat this pandemic as best we can, we need to take careful action to ensure that we do not lose our liberty in the face of fear.

  24. The idea of invasion of privacy because of the virus has both positives and negatives. People tend to see this as negative because of the fact the government will be able to see what you are doing all the time. This is always how it has been once people signed up for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The privacy policy, that everyone skips over lets people know everything they see, search, and like can and will be monitored. This is why people tend to get ads on things they have searched up in the past. Sometimes this helps out because people like to see other accounts that they agree with, and like the ideas of others. In contrast, to seeing a page where you disagree with and feel threatened, uncomfortable, or angry with it. This new idea to have people download an app and track people is excessive. This should be up to the discretion of the person. The government wants to stop this virus and help however, this would be an extreme invasion of privacy and this would show that they would be able to access our phones however and wherever they want to. This personally makes me uncomfortable because I believe my personal life should be mine alone and not be shared with the government if I choose not to. This violates my first amendment rights and I feel like a lot of other people would agree as well. In contrast some positives are, this would help stop the spread of the virus and could help see where people go. By doing this it would show that they are following quarantine and the rules the state has put into place to help and stop the spread. They could also have consequences to make sure people obey the rules to ensure the safety of everyone. By invading our privacy people would know the government is there to help us. For example, if someone was not seen for a few days they could be tracked and this would reduce unsolved cases and help the police catch criminals.

  25. The argument of public safety versus personal privacy has been an ongoing debate since 9/11. Whether it’s a terrorist attack or a pandemic, the freedom of Americans has been taken away to some degree, leaving the United States in a state of shock, anxiety and depression. While 9/11 and the coronavirus pandemic are two very different tragedies, they have both resulted in many lives lost and have caused trauma to many families. While during times of panic many Americans are willing to give up their personal freedoms and allow the government to have surveillance over them without hesitation in efforts to protect our country, this area becomes grey after a while as people start to try and go back to their everyday lives and heal. At first people want the government to monitor everything they do and eventually when they see things starting to go back to normal they backtrack and do not want the government monitoring their phone calls, search history, etc. Recently, I was watching the news and countries such as Italy, Germany, Austria, the U.K ., along with the United States have used phone tracking to view its citizens locations to see what places people are visiting most often and how densely populated certain areas such as stores are. Countries are using smartphone locations to see what stores produce the most volume and might have the highest population density, so that they can enforce stricter social distancing rules. In April, Google and Apple reported that they were working together to create an API which could be used by countries’ health authorities in order to build coronavirus-tracking apps. For example, when I was watching the news I saw many people not practicing social distancing and were gathered at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The news knew to go to this park due to data collected from apps showing peoples location. The goal for these app creators is to create a portal for government officials showing app user location from up to 500 US cities. A lot of people are completely unaware that when they sign up to certain apps their location is being tracked. I personally do not have an issue with any apps that I have to track my location, because I have nothing to hide. I am especially for apps tracking locations in regards to helping health officials from trying to prevent the spread of the virus. I do believe however that everyone should have a choice in their personal privacy. Therefore, I think that there should be a choice when using apps if the person would like to disclose their location or not. I think if people understood the reasons behind these apps tracking locations and they had a pop-up message when first opening the app explaining the data is being used to help with the pandemic, then more often times then not people would have no issue with the app knowing where they are. I think it is when people find out after the fact that the app has been tracking their location the entire time that they feel a little threatened and that their personal freedom has been taken away from them.

  26. In terms of surveillance technology being used during this pandemic, I’ve known about it since an article was published a while back discussing how Canada would use smartphone data to track areas where people are social distancing and not.
    As I’ve gotten older, I realized how important precedence is since it creates an observable phenomenon. The implication in law and the courts is obvious and that same logic applies in other fields. A fact proven by history is that people give up personal freedom in times of crisis for the expectation of safety. This would fall under John Locke’s social contract theory. However, what the people gain is the expectation of safety, not a guaranteed promise. Because of this, it can become scarily easy to instill enough fear to have others forego their personal liberty. Most people who are complying with social distancing are not staying indoors because following the law is the right thing to do, rather they are scared of contracting COVID-19 themselves. Once the catalyst for said fear is gone, people should ensure their freedom but if this is not done, then it sets a precedent for further restrictions to the populace. Because of this, COVID-19 becomes a good gateway to increase surveillance technology under the premise of good will.
    Outside of enjoying my privacy, increasing surveillance technology will lead to greater security risks. Smart devices have been on the rise the past decade and are generally classified as electronic devices that are traditionally analog that are connected to a network. Unprotected smart devices in turn are more commonplace than one would initially think and even protected ones have security risks since it adds a new entry point for potential hackers. A video by SmarterEveryDay shows how smart locks can easily be hacked through an analog way that requires no technology-based skills. Creating new technologies (likely at an accelerated and hasty pace) will create more vulnerabilities in systems without any precautionary measures under this principle.


  27. Covid-19 has impacted many different aspects of life. Due to how contagious the disease is, the surveillance on people especially through use of digital tools has been enhanced as a way of detecting and controlling the spread of the disease. While this type of surveillance is a welcome technologically based measure to contain the spreading of the disease, it raises concerns about breaching the privacy of people. Ordinarily, people would expect that the response measures taken be in such a way that they do not result in breaking certain rights of people. However, due to the unique circumstances surrounding this pandemic, in that it is highly contagious, there is a justification for the surveillance measures regardless of whether they breach people’s privacy or not. It appears to be the lessor evil, considering that it will greatly help in containing the spread.

    As the article notes, there needs to be an assurance that some of these measures will not be carried on longer than necessary. This means that the moment the pandemic is over, the surveillance should also stop and all the already collected data and personal information should be diverted to other uses by the government and its agencies. This shows that the enhanced surveillance is an outright breach of people’s privacy, but it has become acceptable way of dealing with the pandemic. It also shows that a society is always ready to trade off some of its basic human rights with measures to curb an emergency. However, the concern that remains is whether some of these trade-offs may end up being upheld long after the pandemic is over, or the government will freely allow the people to go back to the pre-pandemic life situation, where such kind of surveillance was not present.

  28. Individual privacy, now more than ever, is diminishing rapidly as government and corporations find a truly effective way to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Currently, the solution that is being employed to deter the spread of the virus is gathering data on citizens and using said data to track where people go, what they do, and who they are with. This violation of peoples’ privacy is being justified with the assertion that it is all being done for the welfare of the public. However, it is difficult to believe that the captured private information of citizens of any country would be used exclusively for altruistic purposes.
    In Italy and Israel, mobile phone location data is being transmitted to authorities to pinpoint citizens who may have been exposed to the virus. In South Korea, government agencies are utilizing surveillance footage, mobile phone location data, and credit card purchase records to trace recent movements of those who may have been infected. In China, software is mandatorily downloaded on everyone’s phone and citizens are color-coded as to how likely they are to have been infected. If developed countries were being enveloped in an age of constant surveillance before the coronavirus was released, the process has now leapt forward to worrying proportions.
    Government agencies assure concerned citizens that the data being used is limited to a certain amount. However, how much data is enough? What, also, is stopping government and corporations from taking and using as much data as they please? Individuals and agencies have now effectively put themselves into positions of power where they can view peoples’ personal information and choose to act in whatever way that seems fit, which is vague and implies nothing benevolent. In China, for example, the mandatory software automatically downloaded onto every citizens’ phone will track the individual’s location, color-code them to determine risk (which seems unreliable and untrustworthy), and restrict movement of the individual. If these guidelines are not adhered to, it will result in the authorities being notified and consequences will be issued. As a general rule, government and corporations alike cannot be trusted with this type of power and ability to assert themselves into the lives of citizens on the risk that they just might get sick.
    The health and safety of the people is the primary reason that the government exists, however, it is very commonly a reason to convince citizens to give up their privacy and liberty. Once this mass surveillance technology becomes normalized and accepted, and very possibly encouraged, there will be very little opportunity for people to regain their liberties. Rather than a surveillance state being pushed down everyone’s’ throat, similar to Stalinist Russia or Maoist China, it is being presented to people under the guise of safety, health, and the betterment of society as a whole. People ought to be wary of the regulations being put forth during waves of hysteria and make sure that government and corporations both do not overstep their bounds and further intrude on the private lives of individuals.

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