Government Surveillance in an Age of Pandemics

Ed. note – IPA takes a comprehensive view of Cognitive Security; we also try to look forward to issues likely to confront policy- and law-makers in the future.  In the recent past, we’ve discussed the consequences of the surveillance state already constructed in China; now we have to confront what may be an expansion of surveillance in western democracies.  The debate is only beginning….

An excerpt from Lawfare Blog:

Although the outbreak will at some point be controlled, the expansion of government surveillance is likely to be permanent, for two reasons. First, the cost of the coronavirus response is proving astronomical. The public may well decide that it was justified, given the potential severity of the outbreak, but it will surely expect the government to put in place measures to deal with future outbreaks in a less socially disruptive way. COVID-19—which is on track to cause thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars of economic destruction—is public health’s 9/11, and it will serve as a “never again” moment that will drive policymaking for years to come.

Second, surveillance programs tend to stick around long past when the emergency that initially justified them has faded. Some of this is due to bureaucratic inertia and path dependency, and some to mission creep as the government finds additional ways to use the data. Either way, now is the time to start thinking about the short- and long-term future of disease surveillance—and how it may interact and overlap with law enforcement and national security surveillance.

Read the whole thing here.