Ever since the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus or SARS-nCoV-2 a pandemic, governments have been hard pressed to look for ways to contain its spread. Having gained media attention for its tremendous death toll, governments are emboldened to use whatever measures may work against the pandemic.
But does it mean people should give up their fundamental rights? How will the pandemic and the policies set in place to stop the virus from spreading affect the way we live? Does it give us a good reason to sacrifice privacy and security?
The answers to these point to the claim that the pandemic can be weaponized against citizens themselves through the establishment of the surveillance state.
The danger of draconian measures
Nothing can justify taking away people’s right to privacy. That said, the idea of tracking people’s behavior in the form of contact tracing is close to establishing community surveillance.
We can see this becoming more of a reality in South Korea. The country credits its success to its highly potent surveillance mechanisms. Using sensors and various applications, the government can easily track people traveling from different points. This method allows authorities to capture detailed profiles of individuals.
While contact tracing seems to be a highly important component of pandemic response, it should not give the government a free pass to obtain private data about its citizens. Advocating for such a program creates a dangerous precedent in support of a surveillance state.
Indeed, the South Korean government has built a system that might as well rival that of its totalitarian counterpart in the north. And for sure, other countries are following suit, taking the South Korean experience as best practice.
Protecting individual rights while protecting people’s health
From the looks of it, there is really no need for governments to use draconian measures in protecting the health and well-being of their citizens. There has to be a balance between creating an effective response and ensuring that individual rights are not trampled upon.
Indeed, business meetings and dating during the coronavirus pandemic are challenging at best for people who want to live normal lives without surrendering their personal privacy. For this, it’s only a matter of people remaining observant and informed about government measures.
It is clear that communication platforms such as Zoom and Skype are noting increased usage, but before people utilize such software, they should be well-equipped with the right anti-phishing and malware tools. It’s important to ask questions whenever a third-party requests specific information such as your credit card number, birthday, and address. Ask why they need such information before agreeing. It’s also important to be very mindful with what you post on social media. Make sure to restrict your profile from public viewing and refrain from posting about your occupation.
It’s a scary time indeed, but the pandemic shouldn’t be the only thing you’re worried about. It’s also important to know that governments are very much capable of infringing on our privacy rights in a time of crisis. We just have to keep a level head and prevent ourselves from surrendering willingly to the surveillance state.