COVID-19 Pandemic and Surveillance Program

11 min read

The epitome of the Modern-Day Corporate Trojan Horse

Coronavirus pandemic has put significant stress on the world economy, public safety, as well as 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 mankind. Sundry of wrongdoings were committed in the past through the opportunities through chaotic situations in many shapes and forms. However, looking back, 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 times, it has come at a dear cost to the citizens. And that cost frequently was much higher than the original bedlam.

Taking advantage of the chaos is typically transpired 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 castoff 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

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

Data Value, Corporate Rapacity, has adversely affected of 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 around the world have instigated to implement some form of a surveillance program. The latest effort applied to detect COVID-19 patients and/or sustain quarantines- many of which exercise, consecutively, imperil personal discretion.

The breach of personal privacy is a complicated giveaway, placing the administrations around the world in the driver 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.

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Photo by Frank Busch on Unsplash

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 that was 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, and 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 a multitude of 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 the 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 own 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 the 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 around the world, 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 generally are “dockless,” as they do not have a fixed home place 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 for the building of new bike lanes and impose program guidelines such as parking and allowed service area. Cities compel corporations to share collected data that contains the 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 precise log of an individual’s activities. LADOT defends its reasoning by stating that the data is required to monitor which scooter-sharing companies are in compliance 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 filing a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. The law suite holds the city accountable for collecting “trip data,” along with the “real-time positions and routes” for the tens of thousands of scooters that LA residents ride each day.

The Trojan Horse of the Drug Screening Protocol

In 2019, the U.S. National panel advocated screening all adults for the use of recreational drugs. The recommendation was part of a significant initiative designed to curb the increasing opioid epidemics in the nation. The support for the screening protocol encourages physicians to routinely ask patients a series of questions about their drug usage and habits. However, The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendation is suggestive of premature stride, as it fails to address the public’s inability to tell apart between drug uses, abuse, addiction, and dependence. It also flops to portray its social, ethical, and legal ramifications, hence creating a grey zone with ultimate deleterious side effects. Therefore, it is imperative to first nurture the public mindset that addiction and dependence are medical problems, just like diabetes. Eliminating the demonized social mindset around criminality or wrong cultural perception of drug abuse is vital to launching effectual screening protocols.

Patient privacy and health Information safekeeping has become an unstable terrain for public rustiness. To date, no entity has invested unprejudiced travail to effectively award it to the populace, not because businesses are incapable of implementing it, but solely because corporations desperately seek admittance to confidential valuable patient data. Implementing an effective security protocol would undermine long term corporate mission. The latter does not exclude data associated with illicit drug use, opening another theme in the data piracy discourse.

The Trojan Horse of the “All of Us Program”

In another publication, the National Institute of Health (NIH) declared launching an initiative called “All of Us program.” This highlights the movement by the organization towards the personalization of medicine. Although it contains a few controversies, still the impressive is their pick of population target, the underserved communities. Their rationale for selecting the said target population is winning back the trust of a group of citizens after a long period of mistreatment brought upon them by the government!

The study described taking six vials of patients’ blood, a urine sample, waistline measurement, access to personal electronic health records, data collected from the wearable sensors attached to the individual’s wrist, and a seemingly Social Security number!

The National Institutes of Health granted $4.6 million in opening funding to a health technology company in Burlingame, California, to initiate the first nationwide genetic counseling resource.

It seems eccentric as one of many solicitudes about the study being conducted by NIH emphasizes on building public trust in a swap for sharing enormously large quantities of critical data with the authorities. The red flag would further go up with the agency’s selection of the underserved populations to engage the primary source of volunteers for the study.

The Trojan Horse here is the notion of how The National Institute of Health is planning to implement a program under the personalized or precision medicine to gain people’s trust.

The Coronavirus Trojan Horse

As controversial as it may sound, Coronavirus has become biological warfare, but only targeting individual emancipation. The weapon of mass destruction is bygone being castoff via its morbidity and mortality. Instead, it is being adopted by creating panic, eliminating individual control over their own rights through intellectualizing their utter dependence on the government and corporations.

Without a doubt, as history taught us through the “Spanish Flu” crisis, any form of chaos and panic is the catalyst to loss of citizen autonomy and the government takeover of the system. Chaos serves as an opportunity for the go-getter, so once created, then it is hard to prevent its loss to the hands of the outcast. Every government has a process of carrying instruments that undermine citizens’ privacy long after the moment of crisis has passed; for instance, the United States’ 2001 Patriot Act, which was enacted in response to the 9/11 attacks. The Patriot Act provided the government broad surveillance authorities with limited oversight, including demanding consumer data from telecoms without the warrant from the court system. Over two decades have passed since the 911 tragedy; however, the Patriot Act still exists, as of today!

Coronavirus Surveillance Program is the Tactic

Coronavirus pandemic surveillance program is another such example happening in our lifetime.

In Argentina, those found breaking quarantine rules are forced to download an app that tracks their location.

In Hong Kong, those arriving in the airport are supplied with electronic tracking wristbands that must be synced to their home location by their smartphone’s GPS signal.

An Austrian telecom company provided two days’ access worth of anonymized locating data to the government to analyze the public’s movement in the country.

Over 30 countries around the world, including France, Germany, U.K, Turkey, Brazil is implementing similar surveillance programs of their own. However, the Australian government has opted not to use cellphone-based location tracking systems.

The Surveillance Programs

During the last two decades, the Chinese government has been using almost every surveillance method in its possession, from publicly located cameras to facial recognition searches to spy on its people. The citizens in china are location-tracked through their phones, drones are being put to provide directions from the government. The government is also tracking individuals in more than 200 cities through a smartphone app that grades their health and assigns them a classification of green, yellow, or red. The Chinese government is also putting pressure on private companies to hand over data.

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Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Some administrations such as the Turkish government have also allotted legal drafts that would mandate that social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp include government representatives in their panel board. This way, the government could quickly pressure the social media company to take down content or ban accounts. However, the latest sections of the outline were later rejected. Google is also contributing a trove of movement data, which it collects for services like Google Maps’ traffic function.

There are also troubling state and local policies, like in West Virginia, those who test positive for the virus but refuse to quarantine are being outfitted with GPS ankle monitors.

According to Axios and City A.M on April 15, Onfido, a British startup that tries to bond government documentation to persons digital identity, is in early talks with U.S. and European countries about developing a “passport” that would prove immunity to the Coronavirus.

Microsoft’s co-founder, Bill Gates, is plotting to launch “human-implantable capsules” that partake in ‘digital certificates’ aiming to reveal those tested for the Coronavirus and who have been immunized. By implementing digital certificates, tech czars want to track who has recovered or been tested recently or vaccinated when available. The kind of ‘digital certificates’ Gates has advised as human-implantable ‘QUANTUM-DOT TATTOOS ‘is a way of holding trackable vaccination records.

According to a new report published in The New York Times, the police in China, with the technology provided by U.S. company, Thermo Fisher has started collecting blood specimens from men and boys across the nation to build a genetic map of approximately 700 million males. This move by the country’s administration has given it the “Trojan Horse” style power tool, thus high-tech surveillance state. According to a novel study published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, since late 2017 Chinese government has collected enough specimens to build a comprehensive DNA database. With this database, the officials can track down a man’s male relatives using only that his blood, saliva, or other genetic material.

Data is Money and Power Invested in 21st-Century Trojan

Healthcare is precious- that is why one and all crave for a slice of the healthcare pie, not only for its financial worth but also because it will potentially open the door to more potential opportunities. That is Why many non-medical entities, corporations, above all, feel they have entered a new epoch of modern-day Gold Rush, hence must conquer the market (Trojan).

The personification of the corporate system has overcome certain financial risks, thus promote the free market and economy.

The collective overture of the corporate cartel through bundling the joint exploitation of human minds is driving, more so under money and political influence.

The current controversial system has awarded unlimited lobbying power to the corporations merely based on the notion of “Corporate Personification,” with no significant accountability of its stakeholders, thus placing individuals at an enormous downside. The vicious circle of money, power, political influence and dominance has been designed to feed itself like a typhoon. It will not halt until it makes a destructive landfall.

Corporations may not run the government; nevertheless, they certainly know how to meddle their administration. The lobbying practices by companies and support associations take absolute advantage of legislative loopholes within the system to pass statutes that may seem to be directed to one thing but denoted for another endeavor.

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The modern corporate mission is a multifaceted one, likewise interrelated. At the core of the organizational mission, there lies the discrepancy between corporate tactical mission and strategic approach on the way to making more money and power. For instance, Parallel to the progression of software technology, and the big data at the animosity of the insanely ambitious market, tactical solutions were step by step overthrown and superseded by overemphasized marketing strategies solely centering on the long-term monetary success of its company. The latest example of corporate strategic achievements includes, even so, not limited to the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), in the form of Stark’s law, which is one of the recognized federal fraud and abuse bills in the United States. The AKS is simply nothing short of permitting selected entities to openly practice kickback practices that would otherwise be considered a crime for the average citizens.

Amidst corporate strive to pivot the power, money, and the legislative steering wheel towards itself, government entities start partnering up and even get on the negotiation table with the same corporations. The latter is a perfect, yet independent grounds for kickback, bribery, and even extortion.

The Trojan Horse of the COVID-19 is being pulled into the Global Arena

The coronavirus pandemic is taking the toll out of the world economy, healthcare, people’s health. Just like any natural calamity, it is accompanied by some avoidable and unavoidable morbidity and mortality. However, an undiscerning reaction to any problem conveys its own unintended certain shortcomings. If not strictly observed and wisely evaluated, it can lead to chaos and uncertainty. Thus, such pandemonium will make citizens defenseless to deception, which in turn serves as the perfect environment for building the pseudo-Trojan Horse. The pandemic under the circumstances will transmute into a system that will provide corporations and administrations with public data and surveillance in the name of embarking upon the disease, meanwhile, utilizing the same data for an alternate purpose. A spectacle, if not addressed at the moment, will be almost impossible to unravel tomorrow.

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Adam Tabriz, MD Dr. Adam Tabriz is an Executive level physician, writer, personalized healthcare system advocate, and entrepreneur with 15+ years of success performing surgery, treating patients, and creating innovative solutions for independent healthcare providers. He provides critically needed remote care access to underserved populations in the Healthcare Beyond Borders initiative. His mission is to create a highly effective business model that alleviates the economic and legislative burden of independent practitioners, empowers patients, and creates ease of access to medical services for everyone. He believes in Achieving performance excellence by leveraging medical expertise and modern-day technology.

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