每日英語跟讀 Ep.838: When tracking the virus means tracking your citizens

· 每日跟讀單元 Daily English

每日英語跟讀 Ep.838: When tracking the virus means tracking your citizens

Apple and Google on Friday unveiled a rare partnership to add technology to their smartphone platforms that will alert users if they have come into contact with a person with COVID-19. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android — the operating systems used in iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices, among others — are used by about 3 billion people around the globe.


Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, some democracies around the world have used technology to avoid having to impose draconian mass quarantines that were common earlier this year in China. That’s reassuring — and it’s also worrying, because the very strategies that can help fight a plague can also be abused once it’s over.


Consider Taiwan, where an “electronic fence” allows local police to make regular phone calls to everyone who is home under quarantine; if the citizen doesn’t answer or the phone is out of power, police come to the home within 15 minutes. In South Korea, the government constantly updates a Web site that tracks the movements of people who have been infected, and issues alerts to the mobile phones of people in the geographic vicinity of an infected citizen. The Israeli government gained access to an archive of phone data to map the movements of infected people, then alerted those who had been in contact with them to self-isolate.


Invoking these powers is reasonable during a pandemic. Once the outbreak is over, however, this kind of power can and probably will be abused. What’s to stop a corrupt (or merely unscrupulous) leader from using such technologies to learn or even publicize the location of political opponents or dissidents?


“This is a genuine emergency and that justifies a lot of things that would not normally be justified,” says Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “But we have to make sure that these temporary powers do not become permanent in a way that hurts everybody else.” The good news is that the pandemic is not an endless war. Once there is a treatment or a vaccine, there will be a clear end date to the state of emergency.



Stanley says it’s crucial to set up strict rules beforehand. Any location data, for example, should only be used by public health authorities for public health purposes. The programs should be temporary and the data should be deleted after the crisis ends.


Along these lines, Freedom House released a set of principles on March 24 for protecting civil and human rights in the fight against COVID-19. It says any surveillance programs that use new technology to fight the spread of the disease should be “subject to independent oversight, and ‘firewalled’ from other commercial and governmental uses such as law enforcement and enforcement of immigration policies.”


In the middle of a crisis, all of this might seem theoretical. The most essential tasks for democratic leaders are providing for the public’s safety and working to revive the economy. Yet it’s also important to remember that the state rarely relinquishes powers it amasses in a crisis.


After 9/11, the FBI was given broad new powers to demand data from private businesses. A dozen years later, both the ACLU and the Justice Department’s inspector general found that the use of that extraordinary power had become routine and unchecked. As Americans grapple with the current pandemic, they must be vigilant that their government not repeat the same mistake.


Source article: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2020/04/14/2003734545



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