Te Tuhi Kelly: Is your Covid-19 app safe

Thursday July 30, 2020 Written by Te Tuhi Kelly Published in Editorials
In Singapore, some people installed Bluetooth-using TraceTogether Covid-19 app on their phones. Photo: AFP/20072910 In Singapore, some people installed Bluetooth-using TraceTogether Covid-19 app on their phones. Photo: AFP/20072910

OPINION: The coronavirus tracking apps are now raising their head around the world and they can pose a threat to people’s privacy.

I want you to think about what I write here and remember this topic sometime in the near future. You may call me a conspiracy theorist, and you have every right to do so.

However, we are entering interesting and dangerous times especially with regard to our liberty, our constitutional rights and our ability to control our lives without being under the gun of government interests who want to control their people, ostensibly for their health, well-being and that of others.

Take away the word Covid and we are left with tracking apps. If we didn’t have this pandemic would you have downloaded this app so that the government gets control by default of the data of your movements.

There is no such thing as a limited time stamp in which the app is rendered inoperable and the data is wiped from your records, despite what you have been told and despite what reassurances you have been given. The data doesn’t just disappear into the ether, someone somewhere has it stored, saved, backed up, imaged and cloned for a rainy day.

The app may appear to cease to function on your device on the front end but in the back end of the data server, that data will be held in a data repository and is no longer yours. That data belongs to the app company and indirectly the government and whomever they share it with across borders, they cannot be trusted to look after your best interests.

Data is precious and data mining is another word for intelligence gathering or predictive policing, it is a licence to print money. The data that they collect on you can be used to establish your movements and whereabouts not just for Covid. Think police investigations, think intelligence organisations, think confirmation of your whereabouts, the time, date and the venue. Now then, think have I or am I contributing to some criminal activity and is this going to be used to clear me or condemn me. Am I going to give them the ability to make that decision because they care for my benefit and welfare? Yeh ... nah.

The pandemic has been a boon and a bonus for governments around the world in which they have been able to introduce any and all laws, mobilise the police, defence personnel and in doing so breach their Constitutions, breach their laws and take life and liberty all in the name of the pandemic.

They have used the pandemic to pass draconian measures for the benefit of their people and many people have acquiesced and gone along with it in the belief that the worlds government(s) have their best interests at heart.

The government here would have used the Police against its own people if they could get away with it, under some cooked-up reason or pretence such as, law and order over health, land rights and water.

In New Zealand, they have put out glossy marketing touting the Covid apps as saving lives, preventing the spread of disease and people have bought into it lock stock and barrel. The NZ Covid tracer says: “Protect yourself, your whānau, and your community, sign in stop the virus”, how can you resist this? or better still, see the underlying misrepresentation or misdirection. They have seized on an opportunity and piggy backed onto these apps because in a real world with no pandemic, they would not have been able to coerce or force you into downloading and signing on to have your movements tracked.

What is more insidious is that these apps are generally free and the companies/organisations that promote them are tracking you for profit. The data can be on sold to other companies who bombard you with e-spam, adverts, specials and essentially the information gathered on you is a commodity for sale.

Secondly your data is not 100 per cent safe as Facebook and many other so-called high-tech organisations with multiple firewalls and encrypted passwords and plain stupidity have lost data or been hacked.

Thirdly you are tacitly agreeing to be surveilled by the government without realising the downstream effects.

What next? Bar codes on our wrists and RFIDs – radio-frequency identification technology – under our skin? We already have surveillance cameras, facial recognition, we already have AI (artificial intelligence) bots and numerous other pieces of software tracking our internet lives, we already have to produce two pieces of ID for identity and to combat identity fraud, what’s one more to add to the growing list of control mechanisms.

Caveat emptor that’s all I got to say and time will prove me wrong or by then it will be too late.

Te Tuhi Kelly is the leader of the Progressive Party of the Cook Islands which was launched last year.

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