State surveillance in Covid times or normalization of the exception

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States feed on fear. They grow with every bite and call their fat safety. And the more space it takes up, the less space there is for freedom and – in its most discreet and individual form – privacy.

This was the case, for example, with the Patriot Act, which was passed in the United States after September 11, 2001, and is the case with Covid19 today. With the first, each person became a potential terrorist who needed preventive surveillance; With the second we are all pathogens: Monitoring then becomes a public health issue.

Location tracking and mobile data; Applications for registration if you have had contact with an infected person; Security cameras with face detection; Body temperature readers; Drones that hunt people who go to their homes. Few governments around the world are not mimicking these measures (not because they don’t want to, but because they lack technology) that were originally implemented by China, a well-known benchmark for the control of liberticides. These measures from safety They blur the distinction between authoritarian and democratic governments on civic surveillance issues, and remind us that the state doesn’t miss an exception to growth (Top10VPN has created a platform to track newly created surveillance apps and discriminate their use by country) .

Information has been circulating since late January that China is using drones with speakers to ensure that its citizens wear masks and stay at home. Photo: K15 Photos / pexels.com

The unprecedented aspect of this phenomenon, as well as all those derived from the coronavirus, is its global size. Not so much for the states that are always hungry for the privacy of others, but for the same people who fear They call for vigilance regardless of the future ramificationsor maybe believe that it will only be temporary. But there is nothing more permanent than a temporary measure by the state. The state does not lose weight as quickly as it gets fat; He is very jealous of his obesity. And if these measures to combat a pandemic are useful, they are even more useful to combat political disagreements.

It cannot be denied that such situations require exceptional measures, effective decisions that cannot be delayed by lengthy parliamentary deliberations, and opinion polls. Although it is not admitted that this is the first disease with an unknown cure that has been irrigated in this century (remember Sars-Cov-1 in 2003); Although scientists insisted on the importance of research, the relevant case was not made. Personal responsibility also plays an important role. The decision to stay at home after weighing the reasons, not because they say it on TV, is also a way of exercising freedom and reason.

The worry is the tendency to use that State of emergency as a normal government paradigmin the suspension of constitutional guarantees and individual rights (freedom of transit, freedom of assembly and data protection via this information) as a long-term preventive health measure. The Patriot Act persisted, as did the culture of terror in the media. We are already seeing the first biopolitical manifestations of passports with indexed health cards.

Fear is the worst enemy of freedom. The more fear, the more freedom and privacy are given in the hope of security. But the tactic becomes a strategy: governments devour and do not easily give back their new powers. They advertise, they all convince that a new pandemic could be just around the corner and that without their full vigilance it will be impossible to contain it. So Order is confused with submission;; They are happy to accept surveillance.

Once exceptional surveillance measures are taken, the state tends to make them permanent, as in the case of the Patriot Act in the United States. Photo: Msporch / pixabay.com

We live the plague with WiFi. Our already digitized life is increasingly digitized. Therefore, the panopticon does not have to see you physically to monitor you: monitoring is as invisible as a virus. And having our most valuable and intimate information on our devices and using tools to prevent privacy breaches is a right and a duty for digital citizens.

There are some who always resist and understand the importance of balancing power and using the tools at their disposal to protect spaces of privacy and individual freedom. Since its inception, this has been the Cypherpunk project, which has an inherently human need. This is how Eric Hughes expressed it in his manifesto:

For centuries, people have defended their privacy through whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, coded handshakes and messengers. The technologies of the past did not allow “strong” encryption, but the current ones. We Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems. We defend our privacy with cryptography, anonymous email delivery systems, electronic signatures and electronic money.

A cypherpunk manifesto – Eric Hughes

The future, with increasingly standardized exceptions, seems increasingly like a milkshake from Orwellian and Huxleyan: a cottony and irresponsible society that gives government surveillance its freedom.

Data protection may seem like a task to Sisyphus when you look at the dimensions and powers of those trying to censor it. We insist on the task before the asymmetry of power. We hold back, but we don’t stop. Since “data protection loves the company”, it is necessary to raise our voices and remember the dangers of normalizing the exception, with the risk that we will be increasingly endangered by the use of data protection tools. Privacy is not a luxury: it is the right to an inner life. We cannot allow fear to take it away from us.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CryptoNews

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