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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #305 - Digital, Apps, drones ... the sanitary alibi of general surveillance (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 16 May 2020 10:21:47 +0300

Since the start of containment, digital gadgets and tools brandished as "solutions" to the crisis have been breaking out. From drones to mobile "health" applications, everything is good for testing ... and hoping to gain market share. Far from being proportionate and only calibrated tools for the crisis, they define a "solutionist" vision of capitalism which claims to be the ultimate remedy for all ills. ---- The drones are out ! All the options are there: infrared detection, on-board megaphones that prompt individuals to return home, communication of individuals' positions to the police, taking a temperature, etc. Companies specializing in the manufacture, repackaging or data processing of drones have not missed the opportunity to make product placement with the police and the gendarmerie [1]. Between large-scale field data collection and the dykes of respect for the law which jumped in the name of the health emergency, each company wants its share of the market.

Take the example of telephone operators. How do we know that the capital has been deserted by 12% of its inhabitants ? This figure does not fall from the sky, but from telephone operators' relay antennas: it suffices to count the connections on the terminals. If these data are certainly aggregated and anonymized, we have no doubts about the very lucrative market shares that their sale represents [2].

In recent days, in anticipation of a possible conditioned deconfinement, the idea that is rising in France is to launch an application, StopCovid, on the example of TraceTogether developed by Singapore. Once installed on his smartphone, StopCovid would report his own Covid-19 contamination to people around him. The non-guaranteed purpose of saving time on the spread of the disease leaves questions open: will the installation of the application be consented or compulsory ? If consent is requested, what is the guarantee that social and management pressure will not make it an obligation ? What about people without smartphones ? [3]

No need to list the dangers of these tools to manage our daily life. History shows us that exceptional measures become the rule once the crisis is over: Intelligence law, inclusion of a permanent state of emergency in the law, DNA filing, etc.

"There is no need for legislative provision"
Combative responses are scarce. Worse, the president of Reporters without Borders, Pierre Haski, went so far as to declare on the radio: "Asian companies are proving to be much more reactive than Europe in adapting existing technologies to an urgent need. They are also more tolerant of intrusive technologies in our private lives[...]. But in the midst of a pandemic like the Covid-19, who will refuse to allow them to be deployed if they allow the outcome to be accelerated ? There will always be time to worry after..." [4]The end justifies the means ! Added to this is "pragmatism "Of the Cnil, safeguard of digital freedoms in France which, through its president Marie-Laure Denis, tries to reassure us: "It is also necessary[that the individualized monitoring]respects the principles of data protection: proportionality, retention period, provisional nature, security, etc. In this case, there is no need for legislative provisions" [5]. Difficult, even with the tongue of wood, to hide that the red lines will be crossed. Remember that proportionality is a relative concept, leaving the power to define it as it pleases.

The rhetoric is well oiled. With each state of crisis involving the amazement of the greatest number, the dominant thought legitimizes the need to tighten the screw even more. Apparently, we would have a hard time understanding that any claim to preserve our freedoms is naive at best, at worst criminal.

"Disperse !" In several cities, surveillance drones have appeared over empty streets ...
Reporting is good, taking action is better
With a steamroller as powerful by its penetration in the minds, it is tempting to give up and focus your energy on other fights deemed easier in pandemic times, such as direct solidarity. But in doing so, would we not be precisely yielding to big-Brotherian propaganda, to incessant injunctions for individual responsibility ? And if we are already capable of expressing such resignation, how can we be sure that anyone who is at least aware will refuse to install the application to trace the spread of the virus ? But then, how to fight ? Perhaps by recalling that once again, the essential is elsewhere: in collective responsibility.

The source code of any tracking application must be public (free software), consent must be debated and considered collectively in order to better weigh the pros and cons, the data collected must be put out of the hands of the State and the sector. private, their use must be limited in time and decided collectively.

For the capitalist power of our time, technology must be able to provide a neutral and effective "solution" to every problem in society. This depoliticizing "solutionism" must be refused [6], because the technique is never neutral. Taking the time to make these reminders, to discuss them with our loved ones, without inquisitive guilt, will allow us to thwart the internalization mechanism of voluntary servitude.

UCL Librism Commission


[1] "Coronavirus: Two-i makes its technology available to state actors" , Le Journal des entreprises, March 25, 2020.

[2] "Orange recycles its geolocation service for the pandemic" , La Quadrature du Net, March 28, 2020.

[3] "The health crisis does not justify imposing surveillance technologies" , La Quadrature du Net, April 8, 2020.

[4] "Good use of technology makes it possible to fight against the coronavirus" , France Inter, March 24, 2020.

[5] "Coronavirus:" Contact tracing applications call for special vigilance "" , Le Monde, April 5, 2020.

[6] Evgeny Morozov, To solve everything, click here! The aberration of technological solutionism, FYP editions, 2020.

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