Covid-19 Tracking Apps: Necessity or Invasion?
In a land far away, from the inner alleyways of a meat market, emerged a microscopic organism that consumed the global economy as people, struck by fear, locked themselves in their homes. Did this organism evolve naturally, as a mutation, or is it part of a greater political conspiracy, involving biological warfare or even democide, to reduce global population?
Whatever you tell your children, the whole world is instilled with fear, hiding in their homes as governments debate measures to save their people and economies from this raging pandemic.
In light of Covid-19, governments have been encouraging — and in countries such as China, South Korea and Israel, mandating — civilians to download applications which enable the government to track their every move. Apps such as Aarogya Setu in India or HaMagen in Israel record symptoms through a questionnaire, and locations via GPS to monitor their likelihood of being infected.
The abstract outline of the idea sounds like it came straight from the mind of a paranoid conspiracy theorist. However, according to Professor Fraser of Oxford,
“if developed rapidly enough and [if] a sufficient number of people used it, the spread of the virus would be slowed.”
The ‘sufficient number of people’ clause is the only way the virus would be contained, and in order to achieve that, the tracking apps would have to either be made mandatory or heavily propagated by the government.
Since the enforcement of the Covid-19 tracking app in South Korea, the number of cases being reported has significantly declined. Although these apps ensure safety through the containment of the virus, they are, nevertheless, an invasion of the users’ fundamental right to privacy. Many politicians, officials, and civilians believe that mandatory surveillance is anti-democratic, exclusionary, and promotes discriminatory practices on a larger scale, probing the degree of trust and transparency between a citizen and their government.
In a study in the U.S., a researcher of security and privacy at Microsoft found that two-thirds of surveyed Americans are willing to install a tracking app to reduce the lockdown period, even if it would collect personal information about health and location.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unilaterally announced that ‘all means will be used to fight the spread of the coronavirus,’ referring to mandatory installation of tracking apps.
Straight out of George Orwell’s 1984, are we diving headfirst into an era of surveillance, tension, and wariness between the central power and the people? The spread of the virus reportedly slows down with the use of the app, but, with the cost of indefinite scrutiny, is it worth it?
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