As coronovairus (COVID-19) cases nears 5 million worldwide, there are concerns that the pandemic is being used by opressive government around the world to supress their citizens more.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last week that the virus might not end and that it’ll be here with us forever. What most people according to available chats online wonder is why then then continued lockdown and curfews.
Most people have already adjusted to the ‘new normal’ of wearing masks, using digital currencies, washing hands with soap etc and the extensions of curfew and lockdown seems oppressive in the wake of reduced incomes, job losses and decline in economic activities.
In the face of it all, it is now harder to distinguish between democratic and autocratic regimes in terms of freedom of citizens.
In the US, their Senate passed a very opressive piece of law. US Senate voted last week to give law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and CIA the power to look into your browser history without a warrant.
There’s already a growing level of concern among privacy advocates as governments around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic as a shield to insert new surveillance measures without any guardrails.
The US Patriotic Act makes it easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans by expanding the authority to monitor phone and email communications, collect bank and credit reporting records, and track the activity of innocent Americans on the Internet.
In Kenya, there was already concerns about the Data Protection laws which had stuck on the floors of the Senate and the National Assembly. Even if this are signed into law, there has always been the issue even as exposed by US NSA Whistle blower Edward Sowden, that ‘the problem with data protection laws is that it presumes the data collection was okay”.
In Kenya, silencing comes in the form of Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act which seeks to silence all voices that are critical to the government online.
What citizens are more worried about now in the COVID-19 era is the collection of data under the pretext of contact tracing, which any keen mind can easily see cannot work during a pandemic.
Snowden had warned us that there’s a danger of this in that it potentially is ‘a building of an architecture for oppression’ using mass surveillance, not anchored on strong laws that respects human rights.
The 36 years old US Citizen now living in Russia did not make those comments out of ignorance of the fact that some data collection that have been done before by for example internet companies was used to align adverts to a person’s ppreference using cookies that colelct browsing data. He acknowledged that but wanred that post 9/11, the data collection is used for more sinister motives such as eliminating opponents by either blackmailing them or killing them.
“…all of us collectively have been forced into a global sabbatical around the world, an extraordinarily rare event in history…the system is so stressed, the leadership so clearly out of its league…we have the ability to make revolutionary changes…these systems (the functioning of the world) if we do not change them will not simply be used to monitor our health, they are going to make decisions for us on an automated basis to control our lives to the nitty-gritty. We are at this moment of extraordinary fear being asked to make a decision on how the future will look like. If we do not, it will be made for us” – Edward Snowden said.
As Kenya’s SAR-COV2 cases rise beyond 1000, the lockdown or no lockdown decision weeks away till June 6th 2020, many people have windered th efficacy of it all even as cases are rising when more people are supposed to be ‘working from home’, many more using face masks, others still stay indoors during the night time.
We’ve seen in countries like Taiwan and South Korea and spreading also into more western countries, and of course in the United States, where it has began as well; the tracking and monitoring of the movements, of the whole of the human populations through the movements of our phones. And it is, I think, something that should raise cause concern, because when we talk about the applications, and am sure we will, they are saying they are using it for contact tracing. This person gets sick, where did they go? Who may they have come into contact with precisely so that they can produce these kind of text messages that you describe? On its face, it seems like it might be a good idea. There is, of course, a natural presumed benefit here. And yet this level of contact tracing, this method of contact tracing does not really work on a pandemic scale. We’re looking at the aggregate movements of phones”. The problem is, if you’re tracking one infection or 100 infections, but when you’re tracking 100,000 infections, contact tracing quickly becomes useless. What is being built is the architecture of oppression. – Edward Snowden
The way forward
Since Covid-19 kills at a lower rate than many of the other deadly respiratory viruses, governments around the world should begin opening their countries, isolate the most vulnerable (elderly, people with underlying conditions etc) in the population and have different set of rules on social distancing so that these vulnerable people are not exposed to the other part of the population that can withstand a covid-19 attack.
Hear immunity should be harnessed for the ‘stronger part’ of the population.
Government’s should also address the question around the vaccine which some people, have claimed to be very sinister. This has been believed by a lot of the populace.
Another thing is to work hard to govts accountable to the people, medicine should be manufactured by public corporations and not private entities.
Finally, though the architecture for oppression is overgrown and too big in some countries, the movement towards better respect for human rights should be allowed to act freely anyweher to educate or re-educate people on civil liberties.
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