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Op-Ed: Coronavirus tracing apps are coming. Here’s how they could reshape surveillance as we know it

LA Times: “…First, there are only so many things tech companies can control. Google and Apple are promising to serve as staunch gatekeepers of the system they are creating. They plan to allow only government health authorities to create the apps that can use the tracing capabilities. To protect civil liberties, the companies say they will not allow government agencies to mandate use of the app (presumably, by denying them system access). But, of course, that doesn’t prevent others like employers and schools, who aren’t bound by the companies’ terms of use for app developers, from requiring app participation as a condition of employment or entrance. It’s also unclear how well Apple and Google will be able to police the app operators to ensure that the apps comply with the rules. How can policymakers help guarantee system-wide fidelity when it’s so easy for things to fall through the cracks? Second, governments will want these tools for their own purposes. Google and Apple are creating a playbook for governments on how our phones can be repurposed for all kinds of surveillance. Apple and Google have been adamant about their intentions to restrict this system only to help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and I believe them. But even large and powerful companies are subject to political pressure.

…Finally, this technology, once deployed, will not be “rolled back.” We are repeatedly told that contact tracing apps and COVID-19-related surveillance are temporary measures for use until the pandemic passes. That’s likely to be a fantasy…”

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