Snowden: pay attention to the measures for the coronavirus

Edward Snowden and the Coronavirus: Governments around the world are using high-tech surveillance measures to combat the coronavirus epidemic. But is it worth it?

Edward Snowden doesn't even want to think about it.

Ο former NSA employee, whose leaks exposed the scale of US espionage programs, warns that once this technology is installed, it will be difficult to restore things as they were and as we knew them.

Edward Snowden

"When we see emergency measures, especially today, they tend to be sticky," Snowden told his interview at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival.

The state of emergency tends to escalate and the authorities become much more comfortable constantly gaining new strength. Then they start liking it.

Proponents of draconian measures argue that simple regulations are not enough during a pandemic and that long-term risks can only be addressed when the outbreak is ruled out. So a brief suspension of our civil liberties can be extended very quickly.

Security services will soon provide new uses for the technology. And when the crisis is over, governments can enact new laws that will make these emergency regulations permanent and exploit them so that there is no disagreement from any political opposition.

Get new suggestions for monitoring the epidemic. One of them suggests monitoring from the data of the geographical location given by a smartphone.

This could prove to be a very powerful method of detecting the spread of the virus and the movements of people who have it. But it will also be a very tempting tool for monitoring terrorists - or any other potential enemies of the state.

Artificial intelligence has become a very popular way of monitoring life now with the pandemic. In China, thermal scanners installed at railway stations detect patients with fever, while in Russia face recognition systems detect people violating quarantine.

The coronavirus even gave Clearview AI a chance to restore its reputation. The controversial startup is already in talks with governments about using its technology to monitor infected patients, according with the Wall Street Journal.

The shift to AI is due to its effectiveness. The results are much better than assigning the same job to different groups of people. However, over-efficiency can also be a very serious threat to freedom.

An alternative is algorithmic policing that will easily justify excessive force exercise and perpetuate racial profiles.

Snowden is particularly concerned about security services that add AI to all the other surveillance technologies they have.

"They already know what you are looking for on the internet," he said. "They already know where your phone is going. Now they know what your heart rate is. What will happen when they add it all up and add artificial intelligence? ”

It is difficult to strike a balance between security and privacy even in the best of times, let alone in a global crisis.

Snowden does not dispute the severity of the pandemic. But he believes it will be a temporary problem that will eventually be solved with vaccines and her immunity herd.

However, the consequences of the measures we are taking today must not be permanent. That is why the technology we are developing now should be commensurate with each phase of the epidemic. Transparency by governments and public consultation will ensure that everything is done by a rule of law that respects basic human rights.

The draconian measures may be tolerable due to the pandemic, but we should also think about the world we want to live in, when the coronavirus is gone.


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