Many nations are using cell phone data and/or apps installed on cell phones to track folks known to be infected in order to identify those persons’ contacts and to build up anticipatory data of pending and developing hotspots. This is intended to facilitate more efficient targeting of medical resources, to more efficiently target more limited populations, and so to more quickly free up economic resources and activity.
The US Federal government, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is creating a portal that will compile phone geolocation data to help authorities predict where outbreaks could next occur and determine where resources are needed, though the effort faces privacy concerns.
… Alphabet Inc’s Google said Thursday it would share a portion of its huge trove of data on people’s movements.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed an app to track Covid-19 patients and the people they interact with, and are in talks with the federal government about its use, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
The EU is going even further, developing and propagating apps that track individuals, ostensibly with their permission.
These moves are being sold as necessary for the present situation, even though they badly risk individual privacy—cue Ben Franklin.
Such sales pitches would be believable—and stipulate arguendo that the tradeoff might be minimally acceptable—if these surveillance moves had sunset clauses in them. Such surveillances need to be automatically terminated after some specified period of time or at some easily measurable milestone—Wuhan Virus infection rate drops below a particular threshold, for instance. Sunset clauses also must include destruction of the surveillance databases, with that being verifiable by anyone who asks—the present FOIA procedures would provide an example of how that would work.
Unfortunately, sunset clauses are notably absent from these moves toward government surveillance of us citizens—the danger of which is emphasized by the example of the People’s Republic of China and by our own FBI’s abuse of its surveillance authorities, along with our own FISA Court judges’ cynical acceptance of those abuses.