I’m in no rush to allow the government to track and monitor me. It’s a horrible and terrifying idea.
Yes, you can mount a legitimate argument that the COVIDsafe app in it’s current form is nothing really to be concerned about. However the current build and rollout is not the cause for alarm.
Facebook, Google and Amazon started very simply and safe too, and now they are using data points and tracking technology to manipulate and exploit the public, why would we allow the government to do so too? This is the same government which recently raided the ABC, essentially attacking freedoms without apology.
Also as Vox reported, governments in 30 countries have manipulated media online to silence critics, sow unrest or influence elections. Now the Australian government is asking us to give them consent to track us all in the name of safety and COVID-19.
Like all times of crisis, governments around the world are using this pandemic to implement policies and expectations which will deteriorate basic freedoms.
In the US, the government used the 9/11 attacks in 2001 to implement the Patriot Act, a sweeping piece of legislation that allowed, among other things, the government to collect citizens’ phone data. It was an unprecedented encroachment on personal rights.
Watch: Will COVID-19 Surveillance Take Us Somewhere We Don’t Want to Go?
Why do I care you ask? “I don’t have anything to hide”
Well, as governments become more authoritarian, more and more groups of people will get marginalised and abandoned. Think about all the profiling that happens at a police level with race and various other demographics?
Now imagine that same unjust profiling occurring where police have multiple data points they can access on a dashboard at any moment? We really aren’t far from that.
Even if you are a white rich male and don’t have anything to worry about, ask yourself; what industry do you work in? What are your religious beliefs? Oppression and marginalisation does not stop, it slowly creeps until it consumes the whole public – everyone is at risk who is not in office.
On a less dramatic example, we have seen how the Trump campaign manipulated the American people with unprecedented access to data via Cambridge Analytica. No one is immune from government manipulation.
You may be the most rational, balanced person in Australia, however everyone has one topic/issue that irritates or angers them the most. With enough data points, the government can determine what that issue is, then feed you information on how their opposition supports (or doesn’t support) that issue so that you don’t vote for them.
Even though, on balance, the current government may be far more corrupt – and far more disconnected from your values than the opposition – you are being fed very specific details which make you blind to that. And it wouldn’t be your fault!
Giving up data means you are ripe for manipulation
Back to Google, Facebook and Amazon. We are in a terrible place as a society with these services. They know everything about us, and worse still, they make no secret in how they use this information to exploit us for commercial gain.
Personally, I use them as little as possible now and have hard restrictions on all of their apps. Where I can, I use a fake name and fake photo.
I also post a lot less now, and certainly don’t upload pictures as much as I once did. If it wasn’t for work, I’d delete these services. This was a big reason I switched back to Apple from Android too, you can control your security a lot better on Apple devices.
The bottom line is, think very carefully before you consent to the government getting access to your data.
Yes the data the COVIDsafe app collects now is limited and is anonymised. However it is just the foot in the door for the conservative government. It won’t be long before they are incentivising the public to give them Facebook levels of data, entirely consensually. Just like we’ve done with the corporate tech giants.
Then governments will use that data to manipulate you, and when that happens, will your thoughts and your vote really be your own?