Contact Tracing Might Lead to a Police State

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The term “contact tracing” is what everyone is talking about since the novel coronavirus has started to spread. Currently, contact tracing is seen by a majority of experts as one of the best, time-tested tools we have at our disposal to prevent the spread of coronavirus and to safely reopen our country. Contact tracing also carries its fair share of controversy, especially since a lot of digital contact tracing tools have been created by some giant tech corporations which are well-known for their greed in regards to personal data. A lot of privacy advocates have stated their concerns regarding the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic could actually lead to the development and implementation of strict surveillance methods. Fears are being stoked by a wide array of people that these methods could be applied to day-to-day life even after the novel coronavirus pandemic dissipates.

Just last weekend, an important alarm bell was raised in a press conference by Commissioner John Harrington, of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, that law enforcement is using contact tracing techniques on the Minnesota protesters that have been caught in relation to the recent public unrest.

In the press release, Harrington explained that the police department has started to analyze the available data on the arrested individuals, and it turns out that what the department does is quite similar to COVID-19-related actions. Harrington then summarized the department’s actions as simple contact tracing.

Well, we tend to disagree. As is stated by the Minnesota public health authorities, Harrington was only talking about the regular process of law enforcement investigations. During the press release, he did not mean to say that the police department was making use of COVID-19 data in order to further the contact tracing efforts. He also did not use this data in order to improve the contact tracing techniques that are already in place.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.