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Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Coronavirus, Mass Surveillance, And Power

by Gunnar Alfredsson




Authoritarian measures are sometimes necessary in times of great stress, but will the state relinquish those powers when things start to improve? Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen governments, powerful individuals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other entities around the world adopt an authoritarian stance to combat the spread of coronavirus or attempt to take advantage of the crisis in other ways. Many of these measures are necessary, but how far will they go? There have been many instances of power grabbing at different levels ranging from the local level to the geopolitical level. From governments to NGOs and from criminal syndicates to leftist Identitarians, many different groups are vying for power during this crisis; and it is putting our freedoms and our lives in danger.

The surveillance state uses technology, personnel, and even other citizens to spy on its own populace, track their movements, and curtail their freedoms. The coronavirus pandemic has seen governments set up snitch lines; mobilize cell phone data to track the movements of citizens; and encourage people to denounce their neighbours for social-distancing infractions. All of these initiatives are purported to be undertaken to curb the virus’ spread.

In Israel, authorities are using cell phone data to track individuals’ movements. “In all my years as prime minister I have avoided using these means among the civilian public but there is no choice,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated. The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, regularly gathers cellular geolocation data from millions of mobile phone users in Israel and the West Bank. This data is now being leveraged to track potential virus spreaders.[i]

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not ruled out tracking people with their cell phone data either. Trudeau stated that “…all options are on the table to do what is necessary to keep Canadians safe.” City of Toronto Mayor John Tory stated that his city was already using cellphone data to track citizens. In an interview with The Logic, Tory stated that companies were providing data so the city could determine where people were gathering: "I asked for it, and I’m getting it.” [ii]

Harvard public health researchers have proposed intermittent lockdowns and "widespread surveillance" of Americans, through 2022, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus and to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. Surveillance of this magnitude would be achieved through partnerships between governments and corporations.[iii] Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, stated that the United States will remain in lockdown until there are no new cases of coronavirus, which suggests that social distancing could remain in place indefinitely.[iv]

Similarly, a European initiative, entitled Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), aims to use smartphone data to determine who a person with the virus had come in contact with, so that those people could then be contacted.[v] A similar application is being developed in conjunction with the NHS in the United Kingdom. [vi] And tech giant Google is more than willing to assist in similar initiatives.[vii]

Drones are being used in parts of the United Kingdom to enforce social distancing. Authorities in Neath Port Talbot, for example, are using drones to broadcast orders to admonish citizens who are not self-isolating: “This is a message from Neath and Port Talbot Council. Please follow the given rules at this time, you must stay home.”[viii] British citizens are now under a lockdown that only allows people to leave their homes in a limited set of circumstances; and the police have the right to disperse gatherings and detain those flaunting the new provisions.[ix]

Many other jurisdictions are using drones in a similar manner. Authorities throughout the wider United Kingdom, France, Spain, China and other locales are using flying quadcopters and other unmanned aerial vehicles to enforce lockdown orders.[x] In Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, the mayor warned citizens that large fines for gatherings and other infractions would be doled out. [xi] In an example of officiousness, an Ottawa man was then fined $880 for walking his dog in a local park.[xii] Similar instances are occurring throughout Canada as Police and bylaw officials are enforcing nebulous social distancing rules in a seemingly arbitrary or patchwork manner.[xiii]



In Germany, the pandemic has resulted in denunciations reminiscent of an authoritarian past. During the cold war, the brutal communist East German police organization, the Stasi, relied on a network of approximately 200,000 informants to spy on friends, colleagues and relatives in order to crush dissent. Since March, pubs, restaurants, sports facilities, and other venues have been shut down to aid social distancing. In Berlin, police have shuttered approximately 830 establishments; and rules-conscious Germans are readily assisting police in tracking those who flaunt the new coronavirus rules. Police all over Germany have received hundreds of phone calls and tips from individuals reporting rule infractions.[xiv]

Similar informants have anonymously tipped off authorities in many of the United States’ major cities. Some infractions included opening and serving patrons at a bar; holding yoga classes; operating a speakeasy; and playing golf. According to journalist Tammy Webber, similar scenarios have played out in Spain, New Zealand, and countless other locales.[xv] Citizens were alarmed when Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser threatened them with jail time and $5,000 fines for failing to stay home during the coronavirus outbreak.[xvi] Critics suggest that the world risks becoming a hyper-surveilled dystopian nightmare.[xvii]

In the Philippines, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte instructed police to shoot dead lockdown troublemakers[xviii] and a man was killed for flouting those coronavirus rules.[xix]

Surveillance, curfews, travel restrictions and extraordinary state power have been enacted in China and India where whole cities were locked down; in Serbia an open ended state of emergency was declared in mid-March with accompanying security measures; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government declared a state of emergency on 11 March, and passed a law giving him and his party the right to rule by decree for as long as a state of emergency is in effect. Across the planet, governments are granting themselves extraordinary powers purported to curb the spread of coronavirus. [xx]

Even before the outbreak, China was doing everything in its power to gain the upper hand geopolitically. It was recently revealed, for instance, that two Chinese nationals and an American Harvard professor were charged with aiding the communist regime. The subterfuge involved millions of dollars in funding and the attempted theft of 21 vials of biological research.[xxi] During the pandemic, China has used predatory aid in the form of faulty Covid-19 test kits and faulty personal protective equipment to profit from the crisis, increase influence, and punish geopolitical rivals.[xxii] Moreover, because the pandemic is wreaking havoc in the United States, security analysts are watching Beijing’s military maneuvers in the hotly contested South China Sea. China has recently conducted military drills and deployed large-scale military assets to the maritime area while exploiting disputed energy resources in the fossil fuel-rich waters.[xxiii]

Not to be outdone, the United Nations (UN) has used the crisis to solicit the entire planet for an extraordinary amount of money. The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres essentially wants an unprecedented 8.7 trillion USD to establish a “COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.”[xxiv]

At every level across the planet, governments – both nationalist and globalist -- are using the coronavirus pandemic to increase their power. Security, including public health, should begin with a strong border where foreign nationals are poked and prodded, screened and scanned. Those humiliations should be reserved for people who are not privileged enough to hold citizenship in a western state. A strong national border would have done wonders to keep our current public health crisis under control. At the geopolitical level, the interconnected nature of medical equipment supply chains should be wrested from the clutches of the hyper-aggressive Chinese and repatriated to the West. Elected officials, who have presided over this disaster should be held to account when the coronavirus pandemic abates. It is in the interest of nationalists to insist upon strong borders, immigration moratoriums, and vigilance (especially vis a vis our geopolitical rivals) in order to avoid a porous open border dystopian surveillance state devoid of freedom.

References


[i] Laurie Clarke, “Israel to use “anti-terrorist” surveillance tech to track coronavirus spread,” NS Tech, 16 March 2020, available: https://tech.newstatesman.com/security/israeli-anti-terrorist-surveillance-tech-coronavirus; Natasha Lomas, “Israel passes emergency law to use mobile data for COVID-19 contact tracing,” Tech Crunch, 18 March 2020, available: https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/18/israel-passes-emergency-law-to-use-mobile-data-for-covid-19-contact-tracing/

[ii] Roberto Wakerell-Cruz, “Trudeau says tracking Canadians with their cell phones ‘on the table’,” The Post Millennial, 24 March 2020, available: https://thepostmillennial.com/trudeau-says-tracking-canadians-with-cellular-data-on-the-table

[iii] Tyler Durden, “Harvard Researchers Propose "Intermittent" Lockdowns And "Widespread Surveillance" Of Americans To Avoid Critical-Care Capacity,” Zero Hedge, 30 March 2020, available: https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/harvard-researchers-propose-intermittent-lockdowns-and-widespread-surveillance-americans?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+zerohedge%2Ffeed+%28zero+hedge+-+on+a+long+enough+timeline%2C+the+survival+rate+for+everyone+drops+to+zero%29

[iv] Paul Joseph Watson, “Fauci Says Lockdown Will Continue Until There Are No “New Cases” of Coronavirus,” NewsWars, 2 April 2020, available: https://www.newswars.com/fauci-says-lockdown-will-continue-until-there-are-no-new-cases-of-coronavirus/

[v] “European experts ready smartphone technology to help halt coronavirus spread,” Reuters, 1 April 2020, available: https://news.trust.org/item/20200401131119-famq1

[vi] Rowland Manthorpe, “Coronavirus: Govt set to release 'contact tracking' app which detects nearby virus carriers,” Sky News, 31 March 2020, available: https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-govt-set-to-release-contact-tracking-app-which-detects-nearby-virus-carriers-11966243

[vii] Tom Jowitt, “Coronavirus: Google Releases Location Data To Help Authorities Check Lock-downs,” Silicon, 3 April 2020, available: https://www.silicon.co.uk/e-regulation/coronavirus-google-releases-location-data-338372

[viii] David Rivers, “Coronavirus: UK council deploys talking drones that track down lockdown rebels,” Daily Star, 28 March 2020, available: https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/coronavirus-uk-council-deploys-talking-21771362

[ix] Oliver JJ Lane, “UK Coronavirus Lockdown: ‘If You Don’t Follow the Rules, the Police Will Have the Powers to Enforce Them’,” Breitbart, 23 March 2020, available: https://www.breitbart.com/europe/2020/03/23/uk-coronavirus-lockdown/

[x] Trevor Mogg, “Cops use drones to shame people flouting lockdown rules,” Digital Trends, 27 March 2020, available: https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/cops-drones-shame-people-flouting-053008384.html

[xi] Beatrice Britneff, “Coronavirus: Fines for big gatherings, repeat offenders start Friday, Ottawa mayor warns,” Global News, 4 April 2020, available: https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/coronavirus-fines-for-big-gatherings-repeat-offenders-start-friday-ottawa-mayor-warns/ar-BB128ZFQ?ocid=spartandhp

[xii] Bruce Deachman, “Britannia man fined $880 while walking dog through Britannia Park,” Ottawa Citizen, 7 April 2020, available: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/britannia-man-fined-880-while-walking-dog-through-britannia-park/

[xiii] Jesse Snyder, “Covid-19: Civil Liberties group warns of ‘unfair and arbitrary’ law enforcement as hefty fines across Canada pile up,” National Post, 8 April 2020, available: https://nationalpost.com/news/covid-19-civil-liberties-group-warns-of-unfair-and-arbitrary-law-enforcement-as-hefty-fines-across-canada-pile-up?video_autoplay=true

[xiv] Madeline Chambers, “Germans snitch on neighbours flouting virus rules, in echo of the Stasi past,” Reuters, 2 April 2020, available: https://news.trust.org/item/20200402160625-8y12u

[xv] Tammy Webber, “Residents snitch on businesses, neighbors amid shutdowns,” AP, 2 April 2020, available: https://apnews.com/343ed4a8e95dfc8f8dda87b9e450ca57

[xvi] Steven Nelson, “DC mayor threatens jail time for leaving home during coronavirus,” New York Post, 30 March 2020, available: https://nypost.com/2020/03/30/dc-mayor-threatens-jail-time-for-leaving-home-during-coronavirus/

[xvii] Umberto Bacchi, “World risks 'sleepwalking into surveillance' with coronavirus controls,” Reuters, 2 April 2020, available: https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-rights/world-risks-sleepwalking-into-surveillance-with-coronavirus-controls-idUSL8N2BQ37V

[xviii] “Duterte tells Philippine police to shoot dead lockdown troublemakers,” AFP, 2 April 2020, available: https://news.yahoo.com/duterte-tells-philippine-police-shoot-dead-lockdown-troublemakers-065547761.html

[xix] “Man shot dead in Philippines for flouting coronavirus rules,” Al Jazeera English, 5 April 2020, available: https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/man-shot-dead-in-philippines-for-flouting-coronavirus-rules/ar-BB12bEc6?ocid=spartanntp

[xx] Dusan Stojanovic, “Dismantling democracy? Virus used as excuse to quell dissent,” AP, 30 March 2020, available: https://apnews.com/dffb2fa43d0c5fddc4508f2558603e67

[xxi] Harvard University Professor and Two Chinese Nationals Charged in Three Separate China Related Cases, The United States Department of Justice, 28 January 2020, available: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/harvard-university-professor-and-two-chinese-nationals-charged-three-separate-china-related

[xxii] “Trudeau promises safety checks after Dutch government recalls faulty Chinese masks,” True North, 30 March 2020, available: https://tnc.news/2020/03/30/trudeau-promises-safety-checks-after-dutch-government-recalls-faulty-chinese-masks/ ; Jorge Gonzalez-Gallarza Hernandez, “China challenges the world with flawed COVID-19 test kits,” Washington Times, 30 March 2020, available: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/mar/30/china-challenges-the-world-with-flawed-covid-19-te/

[xxiii] Richard Javad Heydarian, “China seizes Covid-19 advantage in South China Sea,” Asia Times, 1 April 2020, available: https://asiatimes.com/2020/04/china-seizes-covid-19-advantage-in-south-china-sea/

[xxiv] Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, “United Nations wants 10% of entire planet’s annual income in fund for coronavirus response,” Life Site News, 1 April 2020, available: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/united-nations-wants-10-of-worlds-annual-income-in-fund-for-coronavirus-response

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