How Virus Surveillance and Civil Liberties Could Collide

Imagine your phone buzzing with an alert: Someone who passed
you at the grocery store has tested positive for COVID-19. Based
on location data transmitted through a smart phone app,
authorities believe the stranger exposed you to the coronavirus.

You might be infected.

The alert directs you to self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent further spread of the deadly
disease. In the app, a map of color-coded dots displays the population of your home town.
You notice the dot associated with you, previously green, has turned to yellow — now
everyone else with the app knows you could be dangerous.

Whether the scenario sounds Orwellian or absolutely necessary could depend on your
answer to a rhetorical question Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently posed during a live Snapchat interview.
“Do you give up a little liberty to get a little protection?” he said.

The answer seems to be yes in at least 23 countries, where dozens of “digital contact
tracing” apps have already been downloaded more than 50 million times. Authorities in
Australia, India, the United Kingdom and Italy are also deploying drones with video
equipment and temperature sensors.

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