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Global Pandemic Response Handing Governments Sweeping Powers They May Never Relinquish

Global Pandemic Response Handing Governments Sweeping Powers They May Never Relinquish

While the response to the coronavirus pandemic have ranged from mocking the disease (such has Brazil’s Bolsonaro) to physically sealing people inside of apartment buildings in China, governments are deploying an array of legislative and technical measures to track and control citizens during the outbreak which has killed over 21,000 in roughly three months.

As the situation deteriorates, many fear that the current efforts to control the virus will have dire consequences for individual freedoms long after the danger of COVID-19 has passed, according to Bloomberg‘s Ian Marlow – who notes “In desperate times like these, leaders on all levels are going to extraordinary lengths to do whatever possible to contain the virus.”

Like the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic is a crisis of such magnitude that it threatens to change the world in which we live, with ramifications for how leaders govern. Governments are locking down cities with the help of the army, mapping population flows via smartphones and jailing or sequestering quarantine breakers using banks of CCTV and facial recognition cameras backed by artificial intelligence.

The restrictions are unprecedented in peacetime and made possible only by rapid advances in technology. And while citizens across the globe may be willing to sacrifice civil liberties temporarily, history shows that emergency powers can be hard to relinquish. –Bloomberg

“A primary concern is that if the public gives governments new surveillance powers to contain Covid-19, then governments will keep these powers after the public health crisis ends,” says Adam Schwartz, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation based in San Francisco. “Nearly two decades after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government still uses many of the surveillance technologies it developed in the immediate wake.

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