by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 29
April 2021
Spotted
11:41

Beware the post-Covid surveillance state

Like the viruses they’re meant to fight, apps are mutating when no one’s looking
by Peter Franklin
Big Brother is watching you

I am not a lockdown sceptic. I’m pro-mask, pro-vax and pro border control.

And yet I’d have to be naive not to worry about the dramatic extension of state power over private life. In particular, I worry about the surveillance technologies that governments around the world are using to control the spread of the virus.


Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email

Already registered? Sign in


On the face of it, a tracing app on your mobile phone is less oppressive than, say, a police officer fining you for sitting on a park bench. However, it’s the unobtrusiveness of the tech that should concern us.

Rather like the viruses they’re meant to fight, apps have a habit of mutating when no one’s looking.

Take a look at what’s happened in Singapore. The story is told in a must-read Twitter thread by Kirsten Han — a journalist and civil liberties campaigner. 

https://twitter.com/kixes/status/1384566577685688325?s=21

 The tale begins with TraceTogether, an app which allows users to swap anonymised identifying data when they come within two metres of one another. The data becomes de-anonymised if a user tests positive for Covid — alerting all other app users that he or she swapped data with. 

Han also describes a different app called SafeEntry, used to facilitate the scanning of QR codes so that users can enter particular locations. Use of SafeEntry became evermore essential, due to the number of buildings and facilities that require visitors to provide Covid-related information. 

You can probably guess what happened next. Late last year, TraceTogether and SafeEntry were combined into a single app. Thus a system that records who you meet merged with one that records where you go.

Despite government assurances that the collected data would only be used for contact tracing purposes, Han explains how this isn’t quite true. As it turns out, the data can be used for certain police investigations that have nothing to do with controlling Covid. 

Ironically, what this reminds me of is the way that viruses exchange DNA so that features from separate strains come together to form a new super-strain. This can happen through natural gene flow or ‘gain of function’ experiments in laboratories.  

Like Kirsten Han, one can absolutely see the value of tracing apps in controlling the virus (which Singapore has achieved with notable success). However, one also has to consider these systems’ ongoing evolution. 

In human affairs there is a tendency for the voluntary to become compulsory and the temporary to become permanent. This doesn’t depend on high profile policy decisions — force of habit, inertia and excessive caution can do the job instead. Furthermore, there’s the ‘gain of function’ factor — the tendency of governments and corporations to merge separate IT systems set up to monitor and influence particular aspects of our behaviour, thus creating something greater than its component parts. 

If we do enter this new world of high tech surveillance, it must be with our own eyes wide open.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
45 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Believe me, millions of us have been aware of this for some months now, especially those of us who, like me, do not have smartphones and do not want them. We are governed by ignorant tyrants who care nothing for our liberties or our privacy, and the other parties are even worse. What a world!

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I read once (Huxley I think but could be wrong) that a totalitarian state achieves completion when people actively collude in their own enslavement, and grow to love and depend on that enslavement.
A terrifying future beckons where all our movements are recorded. Where we go, anyone we meet, and our thoughts and opinions (for anyone using social media) are, or will soon be no longer private.
Younger people that I talk to appear not to even understand the concept of privacy. Many people are happy to have a listening device in their living rooms for example.
When our thoughts and deeds are no longer private unless we wish it otherwise then totalitarianism is the only possible desciption.

John Hancock
John Hancock
1 year ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

At the end of Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith realises that he loves Big Brother.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
1 year ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

Perhaps Nicollo Machiavelli’s quote could be updated to reflect the modern world as follows:
”It is just as difficult and dangerous to try to free young people that want to remain servile as it is to enslave old people that want to remain free”
Since us old folk are a dying breed and the totalitarian juggernaut is gathering momentum I guess the future is already written and it’s not a particular rosey one.

Geoff H
Geoff H
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The book of Revelation mentions that those who don’t have the mark of the beast will not be able to buy or sell. Looks like we are heading that way.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Geoff H

REVELATION 13:16, KJV
“16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
This is literally the Executive Order Biden will sign next, and Boris is pushing through Parliament!

Neil John
Neil John
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Many of those of us with smart phones having noted the dramatically shortened battery life on our ‘work’ phones where our employer has potentially illegally required it to be installed and have deleted the app already, if we’d installed it on, our personal phones. My professional cyber-security involvement includes people working in/for Cheltenham, and they are very clear these app’s were dangerous from the start, add in GPS functions and you have a total tracking facility reporting with even greater accuracy and granularity to whomever can access it, not just HMG…

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Neil John

I have never had a cell phone, never will.
“And so the population was gradually led into the demoralizing temptation of arcades, baths and sumptuous banquets. The unsuspecting Britons spoke of such novelties as ‘civilization’, when in fact they were only a feature of their enslavement.’ Tacitus Agricola”

Geoff H
Geoff H
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Bread and circuses comes to mind. We cannot deny, it is all in plain view.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Neil John

“Awaiting for approval”, so I will try posting again with ‘a’ changed to * in one word and see if that was the problem.
I have never had a cell phone, never will.
“And so the population was gradually led into the demoralizing temptation of arcades, baths and sumptuous banquets. The unsuspecting Britons spoke of such novelties as ‘civilization’, when in fact they were only a feature of their ens l*vemnt.’ Tacitus Agricola”

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

PS, this above post was a replication of the one more above awaiting for approval – which finally shows me – they do (sometimes) approve the post, and let it in! I worried the awaiting meant it would be just deleted…

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
1 year ago

Slowly but surely the defenders of the narrative are starting to wake up. But still haven’t joined the dots. The mask is a classic sign of compliance. There are reams and reams of papers dating pre 2020 that show the efficacy and dangers of masks. Conclusion : do not wear them unless you intend to breathe over open wounds to protect the patient! Change them frequently. Yet here we are in 2020/21 and decades of research is apparently wrong and people like you Peter happily comply.
The government have pushed and pushed at the patience of the public by having nonsensical and contradictory regulations and yet the public complies. Well surprise surprise after all that unquestioning compliance comes the very dystopian control……and now you sit up!
The most astonishing thing I have witnessed is how people are literally queuing up desperate for an experimental vaccine that provides practically zero increased protection(note1) to most people under 60 and they believe that is is safe when told so by an industry that has indemnity against harm…..jaw dropping. Imagine buying a car with an experimental braking system and the manufacture had indemnity if the brakes fail!
Note1 : (numbers from memory but very close) The pharma trials themselves, their own numbers, show that the 15000 unvaccinated group is 99.4% protected by their immune system (as in they didn’t catch it) and the 15000 vaccinated group is 99.93% protected. But con men pharma take the 0.6% (100+ ) who caught the virus and state 90% of them were unvaccinated so it provides 90% protection……wow. The exact numbers are well reported months ago.
Meanwhile friends of the government are making billions and nobody (except us awake folk) give a damn as long as they are “safe”.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Masks do work in reducing transmission but not in the way claimed.
a) They are a constant reminder that we mustn’t have any contact with other human beings, just so people don’t forget and try to hug a friend,
b) They tend to repulse people which leads to people staying further apart and not talking to each other unless necessary.
c) They make going out anywhere less enjoyable, so people will be more likely to stay home and buy online.
Their efficacy in preventing spread by acting as a barrier is effectively zero except when used by a surgeon stood over an open wound, as you said. They are however very effective at changing behaviour in ways that reduce spread. Psy ops I guess (or the Government nudge unit, take your pick)..

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

I fought for breath every night in my childhood . There were few treatments for asthma then. Every single night for years. Wearing a mask for me is asking too much as I still have asthma have it but now controlled so I have adapted. No shops. Nothing. I have not been in a cafe or pub . I buy everything on line and the only time I have worn a mask is when going into the hospital and that was dire necessity . I hate the sight of them so I do not go near towns unless I have to do so. Luckily I live in a small market town and that is bad enough .
Public transport is over for me. This lot will keep masks indefinitely. I will continue my life as I have set it out.
Why do I just not say I am exempt? The mass of people have turned into masked enforcers of state diktats. I want nothing to do with them .

Then to those who want us to go back to ‘normal; I say then make our lives normal. You have no idea how much I have come to loathe the lot of you and how little loyalty I now feel to your conception of my country.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Smith

I hope the best for you, I almost died of childhood asthma attacks, but outgrew them by adulthood. But refuse the mask, let them disapprove, that’s what I did, do. If anyone says anything ignore them.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I don’t have asthma, but I can’t imagine ever getting used to the extreme discomfort of wearing a mask. I feel like I’m smothering with them on. The one I wear most often now, in places where I have to, is a cloth one that came, as they typically do, with three thin layers of fabric. (I figured that if I have to wear one, I want it to be one that I can wash and reuse). After the first time I tried wearing it, I removed two of the layers. I literally couldn’t breathe wearing it as it was, and kept pulling it down below my nose (and of course got scolded for it by a Covid busybody!) Standard disposable surgical masks I find almost unbearable for more than 30 minutes or so. Yet I see so many people (still!) wearing two masks, How can they stand it? Sometimes I wonder if more people have some kind of auto-erotic asphyxiation fetish than previously thought, and actually enjoy being oxygen deprived. But I don’t. So it must really be hell for people with respiratory issues. There is nothing remotely “healthy” about mask wearing; I thought that the first time I saw people wearing them when I lived in Japan and then China. They protect the wearer from nothing, ofter scant protection to others (if any) and don’t help someone who is actually sick get better faster (I discovered when I lived in Japan two decades ago that many people there believed that). But so many seem fanatically devoted to them.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
1 year ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

Masks don’t work in reducing rates of infection in any way; if they did, the states in the US where there is the most widespread mask-wearing would have the lowest rates of infection. They don’t; quite the opposite in fact, in some cases.
I agree with you about the psychological effects they have, however.
In my city only about 50 percent of people wear masks outside. More Asians do (and we have a lot of Asians), and more women do than men. I’ve occasionally, when walking in public, had a momentary, vicseral response to seeing someone coming towards me from a distance wearing a mask of certain colours, thinking they have some kind of extreme facial abnormality or disfigurement and looking away in shock and embarrassment, only to realize less than a second later that it’s just a mask. We are not meant, from a biological, evolutionary perspective, to not be able to see our fellow creatures’ faces.

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Love your metaphor of “a car with experimental braking system”, for which the manufacturer has no liability! Although I am American, my body is even more personal to me than my car. I’ve been pressured to receive (non-)”vaccine” experimental GMO substances. In other words, to swallow an entire Pandora’s box of possible adverse sequelae, on the unconvincing assurances of Government Inc., a class of people I feel should be added to the old outlaw category of “rogues, vagabonds, actors” and now, “government”. “Government” (along with media lackeys) contains all three of the trades above It does not hesitate to tax us on the way to harming us, thereby maximizing the insult to injury ratio. Masks have just been the training muzzles.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

The indemnity is nothing new. In its current form it arises from the Vaccine Damages Act 1979. I realise that doesn’t fit your narrative but that’s facts for you.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Because it is not new, it does not make it right. One of the only upsides of lockdowns is that they gave intelligent people the time to query, delve, challenge and uncover the rot that surrounds us.

amockett
amockett
1 year ago

“plans also include invoking a separate emergency power which would give the government and all firms, organisations and people involved in the supply chain, from manufacture to administering the jab to individuals, immunity from being sued in the civil courts if someone becomes ill or dies” (Emphasis added)
https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/coronavirus-vaccine-uk-emergency-powers-approval-government-652850

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

This concern seems a bit late to the party. The surveillance state is firmly in place as it is, and the vax passport idea is an extension of it.
In human affairs there is a tendency for the voluntary to become compulsory and the temporary to become permanent. 
No kidding. How many people here have pointed to that fact?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Will it be compulsory to have a smartphone? An ID card in all but name?

So a thousand years of liberty (of a sort) are to be sacrificed for a handful* of Corona deaths? What utter nonsense.

(* How many of our circa 125K Corona deaths were actually OF rather than WITH?)

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

I’m assuming your final question is rhetorical but the ONS does actually publish that statistic.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Smart Phones Will Not Be Mandatory, you may chose an ankle monitor instead, this is in Biden’s latest Executive Order.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
1 year ago

‘I am not a lockdown sceptic. I’m pro-mask, pro-vax and pro border control’.
Trying reading around a little more then. The Covid vaccines Pfizer/AZ have a massive correlation with lower severe Covid / death, severe lockdowns and masks simply do not. The short and long term side effects of lockdown are so severe that any vaccine style trial for lockdowns would have to be abandoned almost instantly on ethical grounds. I suppose you could go with the ‘modelling’ which supports lockdown, in which case I also have a bridge you may be interested in.

In basic terms the supposed benefits of severe NPI/lockdowns are proven by taking a drop in cases and believing that only severe mandated NPIs could be responsible, so only they are considered. This is closed circuit reasoning, junk. Simon Wood of Ediburugh Uni has nicely exposed this. Given his background he uses very complex maths, but the theory is quite simple.

As for the worry that governments might keep hold of and extend their totalitarian powers, where have you been? Have you not noticed the complete abandonment of civil liberties for over a year and the police state? Did you buy the idea that everyone not in favour of severe lockdown was worried about Bill Gates / 5G or some other nonsense?

Geoff H
Geoff H
1 year ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Not to mention the gathering information of how ‘vaxxed’ people are affecting the unvaxxed http://www.truthunmasked.org/p/stay-away.html makes interesting reading.
There is much more to all this than meets the eye, the world has been turned upside down in a way that we have never experienced before, and what is most worrying is the smoothness of the turn – this is no uncharted, unexpected change, this is panning out like a well-rehearsed plan – bird flu, swine flu et-al. I remember when bird flu was ‘about’, a seagull was found dead on the beach (well quelle surprise, who would have thought) and the over-reaction to it was something to behold, exclusion zones, car spraying and mats soaked in disinfectant to drive over. Makes you stop and think – which is why there is so much else going on to divert your attention away from thinking.

Last edited 1 year ago by Geoff H
Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
1 year ago

Still missing the ‘raison-d’etre’ of those pushing the ‘deadly virus’ narrative and subsequent compliance and control exercise.
But is now beginning to wake up and see what is happening, just not yet making the connection between the last 12 months of population control through behavioural psychology through the auspices of a compliant media and the subsequent coercion in to compliance with illogical and irrational rules.

Keep thinking, you’ll get there in the end…or maybe not. Horse to water etc…

Last edited 1 year ago by Nigel Clarke
Peter LR
Peter LR
1 year ago

“ I am not a lockdown sceptic. I’m pro-mask, pro-vax and pro border control” – why does a reasoned article have to begin with an apologetic sop to those who reject reason and prefer to smear?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

I’m sure it’s pretty obvious that the loss of all notion of individual privacy is ultimately not preventable. By ‘ultimately’ I mean a couple of decades tops, possibly a lot less. It’s good to fight to attempt to hold back the tide, but as with King Canute, it’s not gonna to make any difference. Time to pray to Saint Jude.

Last edited 1 year ago by Prashant Kotak
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

AI is the real thing, once it gets created, and when it ‘escapes into the wild’ It all is over. My guess is it will be of Biblical scope, and I doubt AI can be truly ‘Good’ but I suspect it could be evil. It will be all knowing – excepting any communities, or cults, who go off to live in the absence of microprocessors, if allowed. To me AI is the most frighting thing in the universe, but seems to not be something others worry about. I wonder if it will think us cockroaches, or Pets, or just of no consequence and go off by its self and do really complex math problems to wile away the aeons of eternity. It is real Douglas Adams stuff.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well before AI gets going, there is nothing preventing the build up of literally hundreds of millions of individual stores of data which collate data about something, or even all data about everyone and everything. This is happening and happens because data is out there and it diffuses – all you have to do is take a copy as it streams past. Then, once sufficient data starts to build up, it becomes possible to stitch together patterns that are predictive about behaviour – not with certainty, nothing is ever certain, but with probabilities. For example, it is possible to identify someone online even when they don’t identify themselves, because everyone has a ‘signature’ – speed of typing, cadences, repeating pauses before certain letters or words are hit, in short a pattern of behaviour. It is possible to spoof this of course, but you would need to know someone is detecting you so you take countermeasures.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I am sure I am identified totally, I have no ability to spell so my patterns are very predictable, and I am not from one society so I am sure will use words which are typical of one area but not another, and so on.

I erase all trackers every time I close a page, my computer has no history, has no idea who I am, no passwords or favorites, I use a VPN every time, aliases, canvas block and so on, but I know it does no good above the most basic level. I know my history is collected by NSA and China (China collects all people, it gives every one in the world a sort of social credit score, snooping is a mania with them.) I wonder if it just takes one WWG1WGA posted to get on Biden’s watch list?

Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

This is why special powers and public health emergency measures should come with an expiry date (as indeed the UK’s do) and have a proper debate on which if any are still needed when they expire (the UK’s renewal process explicitly prevents debate and amendment).
We’d probably be better off with a hung parliament, where the executive were answerable.

amockett
amockett
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

Starmer is quite clearly working to the same plan as BJ, and it’s the plan being followed in most other countries. Politicians are merely puppets. The colour of their rosette is irrelevant.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

I am stridently anti Mask, Anti Lockdown, and anti border shutdown. I refused to mask and it was hard – the 99% masked sheep would just radiate disapproval when I was inside buildings, and it was an ordeal to refuse the mask – but I did, and here in USA the gov told business it was not their job to enforce masks – so excepting once or twice No One ever tried to stop me, (and I am big and scruffy which may have helped) I was in the grocery store yesterday and STILL The 99% are masked!!!!!!!

But I have this problem with the article above, which was silly as basically it is mere sheep bleats as the writer is obviously a tacit covid responce agreement person as he masked and was a kool-aid drinker.
” tracing apps in controlling the virus (which Singapore has achieved with notable success).”

Piffle – go to Worldometers, China 3 deaths per million, Singapore, 5, Vietnam, 0.4, Taiwan, 0.5, UK, 1870, USA, 1771.

These numbers tell us that region has some ‘Dark Matter Immunity’ (which like dark matter cannot be identified, but must exist)

Covid Response is pure agenda, NWO, or some such conspiracy, as it was the West burning down its house to get rid of a wasp nest.

ALSO – the biggest story of all is the economy!!!! Productivity way down, stock market way up, inflated commodities and assets (Lumber 400%!!!, Plumbing 200%, copper over 100%….Housing 17%) – but CPI under 2%!!! HA! 37 USD Trillion in debt and more printing, deficits record high and growing, interest 1.7% on the ten year Treasury! A shattered economy living – Growing EVEN! on MMT!!!

Please Unherd, write about the REAL STORY, the economy! Get stories on that.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The economy is, ultimately, everything. I try explaining this to pro-lockdown people, that it doesn’t matter how many lives are saved by shutting everything down, if the economy goes belly up, because the fallout from that will kill far more people in the long run. They tell me that it is “heartless” and “cold” to look at it that way and that “there are more important things than money.”

benjamin.mrsh
benjamin.mrsh
1 year ago

Not sure about anyone else but my current MO for going to the pub begins with installing the NHS app just as I’m about to enter the establishment and then abruptly un-installing the same app, as I leave. I thought that’s what everyone did…

Johanna Barry
Johanna Barry
1 year ago
Reply to  benjamin.mrsh

That’s an interesting idea! If forced, I will try it. So far, I have managed to ignore the signs and the hand sanitizer.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
1 year ago
Reply to  benjamin.mrsh

just use the picture function of your camera….

amockett
amockett
1 year ago

“I am not a lockdown sceptic. I’m pro-mask, pro-vax and pro border control. And yet I’d have to be naive” – Shome mishtake, shurely!

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
1 year ago

All this talk of “apps” begs the question: what about people who don’t have Smartphones, either because they can’t afford them, find them (like many elderly people) a mystifying and alien technology they see no need for and want no part of, or (like me) refuse to use them on principle?

kingofheartsjt
kingofheartsjt
1 year ago

Thank you all. I was starting to feel like I was so alone…like I was going crazy. I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first or last time, but I think that what Louis Rossman is doing with his right to repair bill is a good place to start. My attempts at soldering anything to date have been consistently shoddy at best. But for me my support of this legislation is more about telling big business that just because I may buy their products, that they do not own me, or that product any longer. We are the caretakers of history with the responsibility of ensuring that certain things that have begun to rear their ugly heads never come to pass if we can help it. I’m curious to see if I’m headed in the right direction. Is my approach logical. Where else may I be impactful? What else deserves my attention? Louis Rossman is attempting a direct ballot initiative any who would like to check it out can @ https://www.gofundme.com/f/lets-get-right-to-repair-passed?utm_campaign=p_cp_url&utm_medium=os&utm_source=customer

Last edited 1 year ago by kingofheartsjt