What levels of autonomy, freedom and privacy are we happy to give away through the increased use of our devices? What potential forms of population control might be enforced on the back of the mass adoption of new technologies? How comfortable would we be with fitness trackers that relay our biometric results to authorities to track our health? Would we welcome spaces that automatically restrict our access to work, home, or transportation, based on passively collected data about our movements, our online activity, and our social contacts?
If these are seen to be future viable forms of societal management, then serious questions first need to be asked about potential biases and errors in the algorithms that make all this possible, as well how to counter the likely new forms of exclusion visited upon the large minorities of people who are not connected.
Digital technology might well play an important part in the immediate management of this current emergency. Once the virus has subsided, then more lasting questions remain.
Mark Andrejevic and Neil Selwyn discuss the use of smartphone data and apps in managing the coronavirus pandemic. The two authors question how much freedom will we sacrifice through this crisis?
This is also a topic that John Naughton picks up in the Guardian:
One thing that does appear to be happening in China, however, is deployment of the state’s surveillance capabilities. At the heart of the project is the ubiquity of smartphones. According to the New York Times, citizens are now being required to install an app on their phones that dictates whether they should be quarantined or allowed into subways, malls and other public spaces. People sign up for the “Alipay health code” and are assigned a colour code – green, yellow or red – that indicates their health status. A green code enables its holder to move about unrestricted. Someone with a yellow code may be asked to stay at home for seven days. Red means a two-week quarantine.