By Aaron Kesel
Several U.S. states are exploring using technology to make sure COVID patients are staying home and adhering to social distancing and self-quarantine rules. Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that he wants all kids to get a microchip tracker when they are born as well as those who return to schools and kindergartens, something that would surely drip down to the rest of the population.
A deep dive by Reuters into the issue of using Orwellian technology revealed officials in the states of Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky and West Virginia suggests using GPS-enabled ankle bracelets and smartphone apps to track COVID-19 patients.
“Various ideas being evaluated for tracking those under mandatory quarantine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are right now just that, ideas,” Hawaii’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center said for the Reuters piece published Thursday.
“We don’t want to take away people’s freedoms but at the same time we have a pandemic,” added Amy Hess, Louisville, Kentucky’s chief of public services.
According to Reuters, officials in some states would also use the measures to enforce stay-at-home orders given to arriving air passengers who are forced to abide by a 14-day quarantine.
Ankle bracelet tracking is already in place in Kentucky, Reuters further reports.
Seven people who broke quarantine rules in Louisville, Kentucky were court-ordered to wear GPS-tracking devices manufactured by Colorado-based SCRAM Systems, according to Amy Hess, the city’s chief of public services.
Reuters additionally reports that ankle bracelet supplier Shadowtrack Technologies Inc. President Robert Magaletta, which supplies nearly 250 clients across the criminal justice system, even commented that it has had state and local governments inquire about re-purposing their tools for quarantine enforcement. However, the company wouldn’t name the states that have requested to buy the technology.
That’s not all, a smartphone app maker, E-Cell, said they had recently been approached by a state agency that wanted to adapt its detainee-tracking smartphone app for quarantine enforcement.
Of course there needs to be funding for the Orwellian COVID-19 tracing technology; that’s where House Resolution 6666 comes in, a new bill proposed to fund it all. The TRACE Act, states it is “To authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID–19, and related activities such as contact tracing, through mobile health units and, as necessary, at individuals’ residences, and for other purposes” upwards to $100 billion dollars allocated.
The latest Johns Hopkins University data on the contagion puts U.S. cases over 1.3 million, including almost 80,000 deaths at the time of this report.
The nation’s overall population sits at roughly 330 million so that’s still a small percentage of the population infected with the virus.
While America is going insane with prospective quarantine surveillance technology, Israel takes the cake when it comes to surveillance; the country already implemented tracking of cellular communications, giving itself authority. Now, Israel’s Prime Minister has suggested microchipping kids to keep their distance, treating them like a car alarm (yes, really).
While speaking at a press conference, Jerusalem Post reports that Netanyahu suggested the Health Ministry use microchip technology to help Israel adjust to its new routine as the state is lifting the coronavirus lockdown. “That is, technology that has not been used before and is allowed under the legislation we shall enact,” Netanyahu stated.
“I spoke with our heads of technology in order to find measures Israel is good at, such as sensors. For instance, every person, every kid – I want it on kids first – would have a sensor that would sound an alarm when you get too close, like the ones on cars,” the prime minister said.
“It will be hard to do it to more than a million schoolchildren who return to their educational institutions in order to ensure one student sits at the distance of two meters from another. It is fictional and dangerous,” cyber resilience expert Einat Meron told Ynet.
“Theoretically, I get the idea behind it,” she said. “But although such distance-sensitive microchips exist in vehicles, it is different in humans.” According to Meron, “a beeping sound telling me I got close to someone is not enough. Who says it will change anything? I would have gotten closer either way.”
Israel currently has a total of 254 deaths and over 16,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins map at the time of this report.
Activist Post has previously told readers that COVID-19 would go down in history as COVID-1984 due to the measures being put in place that will last generations. Specifically, Activist Post warned about smartphone tracking. According to Top10VPN, which is tracing implementation of surveillance technology by constantly updating their blog post about it:
- 28 countries have implemented contact tracing apps
- Alternative digital tracking measures are active in 32 countries
- Physical surveillance technologies are in use in 10 countries
- COVID-19-related censorship has been imposed by 16 governments
When Activist Post originally reported on the digital rights group’s list, there was only a total of 15 countries which had already started measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymized aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as “contact tracing.” Now, there are 28 countries that have implemented contact tracing through smartphone apps; that’s a significant increase in just a month’s time.
Activist Post also expressed that measures being put into place now will likely remain long after the pandemic has stopped and the virus has run its course. That’s the everlasting effect that COVID-19 will have on our society. The coronavirus is now classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and it may very well be a legitimate health concern for all of us around the world. But it’s the government’s response that should worry us more in the long run.
If you don’t agree with the direction we are heading, a petition is available:
PROTECT OUR RIGHTS AGAINST THE ILLEGAL, UNCONSTITUTIONAL H.R 6666 “TRACE ACT”!
Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post.
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