Orwell’s 1984 Meets the Covid-19 Pandemic
Orwell’s 1984 Meets the Covid-19 Pandemic - The corporate and governmental response to the Covid-19 pandemic is becoming more Orwellian by the day. In the latest Orwellian twist, Google has just announced that it is using location data from its Google Maps app to globally track movements of people in 130 countries, all in the name of helping health officials fight the pandemic. Dubbed Community Mobility Reports, these analytics break down the change in behaviour that has occurred since lockdown measures that have been imposed in many countries.
This announcement by Google came only a couple of days after researchers from the University of Oxford released a paper arguing that a new digital contact tracing app should be launched in the UK to fight Covid-19. Many will be aware that this proposed UK app is eerily similar to other digital control measures that have already been imposed in other countries. From Israel to Iran, Singapore to South Korea, the age of the pandemic is the age of total digital surveillance. Unsurprisingly however, no other country trumps China in this regard. An app in China now dictates the daily actions of a huge proportion of its people, determining if the app user is allowed to use the subway or other public areas, or if they should be under quarantine. Called the Alipay Health Code, each user is assigned a colour code which determines the level of risk posed to other people, yet exactly how the colour is determined is far from transparent.
My intention here is not to distract from the people who are tragically dying from the disease, or undermine the steps taken in the short-term to combat Covid-19. I have a lot of respect for nurses and emergency workers who are bravely working hard, and I am not arguing that people should ignore advice from authorities who are trying to contain the pandemic. Yet, long-term, we cannot just allow ourselves to be conditioned to live in an Orwellian dictatorship where we are prisoners in our own homes, all whilst being lectured too, like we are all 3-years-old. If we are not careful, we could wake up in a post-Covid-19 world that many may feel isn’t worth living in.
It also doesn’t help matters when so-called experts ignore their own advice. A recent scandal in Scotland erupted when Dr Catherine Calderwood, the now former Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, broke the countries lockdown rules by twice visiting her second home in Fife, which is over an hour’s drive from her primary residence in Edinburgh. Calderwood was given a police warning for violating the lockdown rules, and ultimately forced to resign from her position.
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BBC News (6 April, 2020) Coronavirus: Scotland's chief medical officer resigns over lockdown trips - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-52177171
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Google, Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports https://www.google.com/covid19/mobility/
Kelion, L. (3 April 2020) Coronavirus: Google reveals travel habits during the pandemic, BBC News - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52138076
Kelion, L. (31 March 2020) Coronavirus: UK considers virus-tracing app to ease lockdown, BBC News - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52095331
Kharpal, A. (26 March, 2020) Use of surveillance to fight coronavirus raises concerns about government power after pandemic ends, CNBC - https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/27/coronavirus-surveillance-used-by-governments-to-fight-pandemic-privacy-concerns.html
Mozur, P., Zhong, R., and Krolik, A. (1 March, 2020) In Coronavirus Fight, China Gives Citizens a Color Code, With Red Flags, New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/01/business/china-coronavirus-surveillance.html
Pierotti, A. (19 March 2020) Bill Gates Answers Every Question You Have About Coronavirus, Men's Health Australia - https://www.menshealth.com.au/bill-gates-coronavirus-when-it-will-end
Twitter, Drone Footage from Derbyshire Police
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