The spread of coronavirus is taking an alarming form and people of all professions are taking a break from their work to protect themselves. The pandemic is spreading across Asia on a quick gradual manner so nations around the world are attempting to weigh the trade-offs and they leveraged significant surveillance network to trace the virus’s spread. The U.S. government is also working to signal an escalation in the use of surveillance tools. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reportedly enrolled Palantir, a private American software company that specializes in big data analytics, to model outbreak data. Palantir and Clearview AI, an American technology company that provides facial recognition software which they claim is marketed primarily for law enforcement agencies, are also working in tracking in people who came close to infected individuals.
The crisis existed around the world is a threat to public health. Civil liberties remain at risk during times of crisis as the normal balance of safety versus privacy becomes titled toward safety. Privacy advocates are thoughtful about the companies that are being pulled in to help. But a matter of concern is that new surveillance technologies that are currently in work can result in ongoing mass surveillance of the population with adequate transparency and fairness. Now the question is whether the surveillance will last even after the crisis has passed. It is being said because the surveillance and networks got expanded during 9/11 terrorists attack and at the time a new law was also seen namely Patriot act. But lawmakers have yet to de-authorize the NSA’s practices at the face of public backlash.
A number of directives implemented as part of the Patriot Act led to the abuses that were later exposed. It’s not mundane for always to come under surveillance which is increased during any crisis. Clearview AI markets itself to law enforcement within the U.S and authoritarian regimes around the globe with records of human rights abuses as part of a rapid expansion plan. Police departments are also solving cases using their technology.
As per report, facial recognition is notoriously inaccurate for women and people of color so it’s a matter of concern how much the technology will help us in battling a global pandemic like coronavirus. On the other hand, Palantir, co-founded by Peter Thiel, having contracts with law enforcement that target data sources.
Privacy experts can be skeptical of companies like Clearview AI and Palantir thinking about short time benefit but has an alarming impact on data privacy after the critical situation passes. Steps taken at the time of crisis and subjective triggers of ‘emergency-only’ practices take away control and transparency for people. Experts are paying their views to tackle the situation but they are skeptical of these two companies.