COVID-19 Pandemic and Surveillance Program

The epitome of the Modern-Day Corporate Trojan Horse


This article was initially published on Data-driven Investor


Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Coronavirus pandemic has put significant stress on the world economy, public safety, and individual sanity. The chaos and uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 are not unique to our time, as it has transpired many times in the history of humankind. Sundry of wrongdoings were committed in the past through the opportunities through chaotic situations in many shapes and forms. However, one thing that has always been a great contributor to such discordance is public faith in the governments and various agencies or even businesses to bail them out of the turmoil. The latter has succeeded at times, be it coincidental or not. But in the majority of the time, it has come at a dear cost to the citizens. And that cost frequently was much higher than the original chaos.

Taking advantage of the chaos typically transpires through a decisive projection of a picture that is much glamorous than the existing problem. It utters playacting the defeat of the culprit; nonetheless, in disguise, it is the epitome of the phenomenon resembling the ancient Trojan Horse.

The Concept of Trojan Horse- looking back to the Roots

The story of the Trojan Horse reaches back to the War utilizing a deceptive approach that Greeks cast-off to enter the autonomous city of Troy, thus claiming victory of the War. In the accepted tale, after an unproductive 10-year offense, the Greeks built an enormous wooden horse. They sneaked a select crew of fighters inside, including Odysseus, the legendary Greek king of Ithaca.

The Greeks initially sailed away, pretending that they have conceded, leaving the Wooden Horse behind. Once the Trojans pulled the Horse into their town as a sentiment of conquest, that night, the Greek forces snuck out of the Horse and opened the city gates to already returned Greek military. The Greek army consequently entered and destroyed the city of Troy, culmination in the War.

Over the centuries, “Trojan horse” has grown about a somewhat plot of deception that roots a mark to invite a foe into a securely protected stronghold or place: data, surveillance, data value, Data mining, and artificial intelligence.

The Big data business is the embodiment of the ancient Trojan Story.

Various entities for their precious values need private personal data and health information. Governments, particularly authoritarian administrations, are interested in mapping and identifying citizens and controlling their day-to-day activities. Health information and the Big Data industry are billions of dollars industries, and interests over breaching privacy and individual security have become overwhelming in the past decade.

Data Value, Corporate Rapacity, has adversely affected Family Values. The police in China are collecting blood samples from men and boys from across the country to construct a genetic map of approximately 700 million males, providing the authorities a powerful novel instrument for their emerging high-tech scrutiny state.

To derive the wave of the coronavirus pandemic, recently, over 30 governments worldwide have instigated to implement some form of a surveillance program. The latest effort applied to detect COVID-19 patients and sustain quarantines- many of which exercise, consecutively, imperil personal discretion.

The breach of personal privacy is a complicated giveaway, placing administrations worldwide in the driver's seat. Under access to data with an excuse to contain COVID-19 Pandemic, admission to personal information provides non-transparent access to private and sensitive information with a multitude of prospects other than converging resources on the fight against the pandemic.

The most common form of monitoring realized to battle the pandemic is the application of smartphone locating data, which enables governments to track population-level movement down to enforcing individual quarantines. For instance, at the beginning of March 2020, the Iranian government delivered an app pitched as a self-diagnostic tool. While the tool’s efficacy was likely low, given reports of asymptomatic carriers of the virus, the app saved the location data of millions of Iranians.

All mentioned above are the only tip of the iceberg, as such a trend is not necessarily a novel intent. Other modalities have been, at least, thought of in the past by entities to curb individual autonomy. The recent trends and innovations are the Trojan Horse of the contemporary world, where many other ambitions are disguised within their respective scheme that only becomes obvious when reached its potential terminus.

Methods of Creating Surveillance Programs and Data Mining

Data is a valuable commodity, especially to corporations. Data science is more about business enterprise strategy than a tactical service layout. It is becoming more and more about serving as the logistics of fiscal receipts within the industries. Today, every company is a software company. Thus, Monitoring performances have slipped from a tactical commitment to the contentment of strategic necessities to fill the bank accounts, gain control and power. Hence, every robust industry is building its version of the Trojan Horse hiding Big data, Artificial Intelligence, along with a deceptive slogan (Such as containing pandemics, implementing self-diagnostic tools, or even Universal Vaccine via Quantum-DOT technology) to conquer flora and fauna.

The e-Scooter is a Trojan Horse.

Besides intention, irrespective of the level of maleficence, for most cases, the cost of admission to Big-Data is placed back on the individual people. Furthermore, in countries where direct government access to such information could only be possible through the approval of the congress, nevertheless, in most (if not all) cases, patients naively consent to the private entities by overlooking the fine lines at the time of the service or product acquisition. For instance, the scooter-sharing system is a service today offered in most major cities worldwide, typically sponsored by one of the corporations. They are called electric motorized scooters (e-scooters) that are available to use for short-term rentals. E-scooters are generally “dockless,” as they do not have a fixed home and are dropped off and picked up from random places in the service area.

Although Scooter-sharing systems strive towards furnishing the public with a fast and convenient method of transport for mobility in urban stretches, concomitantly, Scooter-sharing businesses collect anonymous GPS and cellular-based data on customer trips. Supposedly, such data helps organizations and cities plan to build new bike lanes and impose program guidelines such as parking and allowed service areas. Cities compel corporations to share collected data containing precise details of when and where e-scooters are utilized.

However, In 2019, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) suspended Uber subsidiary Jump’s authorization to lease e-scooters and bicycles following Uber’s letdown to share real-time data. Uber allegedly declined to provide detail on the starting point, endpoint, and travel time on all rides as a part of the city’s pilot permit program.

Uber contended that the city’s policy “constitutes a government surveillance program,” as with slight analysis, the government can generate a detailed log of an individual’s activities. LADOT defends its reasoning by stating that the data is required to monitor which scooter-sharing companies comply with the permit program’s rules, such as the number of scooters deployed and operated in restricted city zones.

Recently, a non-profit organization, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), proclaimed it’d be partnering with the California-based branches of The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in