This article was originally published by Aaron Kesel at Activist Post.
The coronavirus outbreak is proving to be the Trojan horse that justifies increased digital surveillance via our smartphones.
All over the world, starting with China – the suspected origin of the COVID-19 outbreak – governments are increasing surveillance of citizens using their smartphones. The trend is taking off like wildfire; in China citizens now require a smartphone application’s permission to travel around the country and internationally.
The application is AliPay by Ant Financial, the finance affiliate controlled by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Jack Ma, and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat. Citizens now require a green health code to travel, Yahoo News reported.
China isn’t the only country looking towards smartphones to monitor their citizens; Israel and Poland have also implemented their own spying to monitor those suspected or confirmed to be infected with the COVID-19 virus. Israel has gone the more extreme route and has now given itself the authority to surveil any citizen without a court warrant. Poland, on the other hand, is requiring those diagnosed with COVID-19 ordered to self-isolate to send authorities a selfie using an app. Which, if Poles don’t respond back in 20 minutes with a smiling face, they risk a visit from the police, Dailymail reported.
Singapore has asked citizens to download an app that uses Bluetooth to track whether they’ve been near anyone diagnosed with the virus; and Taiwan, although not using a smartphone, has introduced “electronic fences” which alert police if suspected patients leave their homes.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S. as reported by the Washington Post, smartphones are being used by a variety of companies to “anonymously” collect user data and track if social distancing orders are being adhered to. Beyond that, the mobile phone industry is discussing how to monitor the spread of COVID-19. If that’s not enough, as this author reported for The Mind Unleashed, the government wants to work with big social tech giants like Google, Facebook, and others, to track the spread of COVID-19.
A new live index shows the increase of the police state by Top10VPN, a Digital Rights group. Top10VPN lists a total of 15 countries which have already started measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymized aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as “contact tracing.”
That’s not the only live index, a company called Unacast that collects and analyzes phone GPS location data also launched one. Except this is a “Social Distancing Scoreboard” that grades, county by county, monitoring who is following social distancing rules.
As Activist Post previously wrote while discussing the increase of a police surveillance state, these measures being put into place now will likely remain long after the pandemic has stopped and the virus has run its course. That’s the everlasting effect that COVID-19 will have on our society. The coronavirus is now classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and it may very well be a legitimate health concern for all of us around the world. But it’s the government’s response that should worry us all more in the long run.
At the time of this report, the COVID-19 virus has infected 458,927, killed 20,807, while 113,687 have recovered according to the Johns Hopkins map.