(Originally Published on The Last American Vagabond)
As the people of the world grapple with a pandemic that is demonstrably less deadly than originally reported, the public is being primed to accept an exponential increase in invasions of personal liberty and privacy. Every day the public grows more weary of lock downs which seem to never end, and the bankrupting of individuals and businesses around the world. Amidst the frustration and protest a solution is being presented.
To return to normal, we are told, we must accept certain changes to how our world operates. Of course, this is actually a push to a “new normal” which will mark the world after COVID-19. Just like the attacks of September 11, 2001, there is the world we knew before, and there is the post-9/11 era. We are currently in the middle of the COVID-19 era and a shift to post-COVID19 life will not happen without the completion of local, state, national, and international programs which identify potential infectees, test them, and, if positive, quarantine them in their homes or other government facilities.
This is what is known as a contact tracing program. You have likely heard the term in recent days and weeks because a number of local and state bodies within the United States are considering or already launching contact tracing programs. Nations like China, Singapore, India, South Korea, and Israel have implemented these programs but have also faced criticism from digital rights advocates for violations of privacy protections.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS CONTACT TRACING?
Contact tracing is a process of identifying individuals who may have come into contact with an infected person, collecting information about their contacts, and then tracing the contacts of infected individuals. All persons who may have come into contact with an infected individual are tested for infection, treated for the infection, and their contacts traced as well.
Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing calls for digital contact tracing using cell phones to notify individuals when they may have come into contact with an infected person or visited a hot spot of infection. Digital contact tracing apps use Bluetooth to track encounters, a move which is supposed to anonymize actual location data. Other forms of contact tracing apps involve the use of location data gathered from cellular networks.
Additionally, tech giants Apple and Google have promised to help slow the spread of the virus with new tracking apps that the public can download to report themselves as infected. Using Bluetooth, the phones will warn app users when they are near an infected person or a hot spot. The programs will use data from Android and iPhone users who volunteer for the program later this month. Jennifer Granick, a surveillance and cybersecurity attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union told Politico that the joint effort between the tech companies “appears to mitigate the worst privacy and centralization risks.” However, “there is still room for improvement.”
Microsoft is collaborating with the University of Washington on their own project which the university promotes as a privacy based contact tracing app. Researchers with the University of Washington and UW Medicine worked with volunteers from Microsoft to develop CovidSafe. The researchers stated that the app will alert users about potential exposure to COVID-19, but will do so without giving up anyone’s privacy.
“With CovidSafe, all information is stored locally on your phone unless you choose to share that you’ve tested positive,” explained Justin Chan, a UW doctoral student in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “Only then is your data sent to a secure server, and the app alerts anyone who has been nearby. After these notifications are sent, all the information is deleted.”
CovidSafe is not the only attempt to build a privacy-based contact tracing program. In April, a team of researchers launched Coalition, a free contact tracing app designed to protect users’ privacy and protect communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Coalition claims to utilize secure Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and cryptography to protect a user’s identity by generating random anonymous IDs. The app uses Coalition’s Whisper Tracing, an open source privacy-first protocol that randomizes a user’s device identity and does not share identifiable information with the cloud.
BUILDING A CONTACT TRACING ARMY
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced efforts by NY state to hire thousands of contact tracers. The state’s contact tracing program is being developed with $10 million from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and support from Johns Hopkins University. Cuomo stated that applicants will need to go through a training program and pass an online exam before being granted the authority of contact tracer. The state’s program will involve identifying COVID-19 positive individuals, interviewing them about contacts in the previous two weeks, and then those contacts must isolate for two weeks.
By late April, calls for contact tracing had grown so loud that Congressman John Garamendi introduced a bill that would “expand volunteer opportunities within AmeriCorps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency”. Garamendi is the Co-Chair of the AmeriCorps, a nationwide volunteer force created by former President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Orwellian bill – “Undertaking National Initiatives to Tackle Epidemic Act” or the UNITE Act – would allow AmeriCorps and FEMA to create a national contact-tracing corps.
“The coronavirus pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on our society, and our nation requires a significant scaling of testing and contact tracing in order to flatten the curve and lift stay-at-home orders,” Garamendi stated.
Coincidentally, the UNITE Act lines up with recent calls for a contact tracing “army”. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control called for more contact tracers in the state. Dr. Joan Duwve, the Director of Public Health for DHEC, said being able to test someone rapidly was necessary. “We need an army of contact tracers to respond in a short time to someone who has a positive diagnosis,” Duwve said.
On the opposite side of the country, California Governor Gavin Newsom has partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, San Francisco to train more than 3,000 employees to become “coronavirus detectives“. During a live streamed press conference Newsom described the efforts as a training academy designed to build an “army” of 20,000 people who can test, trace, and isolate people who may be infected. Sonia Angell, California Department of Public Health director and State Health Officer, also stated that the new contact tracing program will be connected to California’s existing digital disease surveillance platform. Angell claims the database will be confidential.
The push for international contact tracing programs has also blossomed in nations like South Korea and China, who are praised for their aggressive approaches to slowing the growth of the virus. Forbes noted that South Korea has had a massive drop in COVID-19 diagnoses largely due to “mass rapid testing and comprehensive digitally-enabled contact tracing”. South Korea has also used GPS phone tracking, CCTV cameras, credit card transaction monitoring, and automated text alerts as part of a comprehensive universal contact tracing program.
The Chinese government approach is what you would expect from a totalitarian communist state: an all encompassing app that pretty much “controls your life.” Bloomberg describes China’s contact tracing app as a “public-private ‘health code’ system” which issues one of three risk assessments in the form of a colored QR code. “A green QR code, which denotes a low risk of having the virus, is the general default, while coming into contact with an infected person can trigger a yellow code and a mandatory quarantine. Red is for a likely or confirmed case,” Bloomberg reported. It does not take an extremely paranoid mind to see how this system could be easily abused.
The Indian government recently launched their contact tracing app – Aarogya Setu – which quickly became the fastest downloaded app on record, with more than 83 million users. Although India is not the first nation to implement a nationwide contact tracing program, the nation lacks strong privacy and data protection laws for its more than 1.3 billion citizens. The Guardian reported that the pandemic is being “used as a pretext to erode privacy and freedom of speech in the name of ‘winning the war’ against coronavirus.” In April, The Guardian revealed that a draft government memo explained how the data gathered by the contact-tracing app could be “de-anonymized” by government officials.
Israel’s attempted grab for tyrannical health surveillance powers were recently hampered by a decision from the Supreme Court which banned the intelligence community from tracing the phone location of those infected with COVID-19. The Israeli Shin Bet service was given emergency powers through the end of April before the court warned of a “slippery slope” where the surveillance tool could be used against innocent individuals. Whitney Webb recently reported that at least three tech companies involved in the build out of the “coronavirus surveillance system” have connections to Israel’s government and the usual Big Tech players.
FOLLOWING THE ORDERS OF THE WHO
In early April, Dr. Michael Ryan, the head of the World Health Organization’s team responsible for the international containment and treatment of COVID-19, called for looking into families to find potentially sick individuals and isolate them from their families.
“Due to lock down, most of the transmission that is actually happening in many countries now is happening in the household at a family level,” Ryan stated. “In some senses, the transmission has actually been taken off the streets and pushed back into family units… Now we need to go and look into families, and find those people who are sick and remove them and isolate them in a safe and dignified manner.”
Ryan was also involved in the now-infamous Event 201, a global pandemic simulation, conducted on October 18, 2019, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Economic Forum, and John Hopkins University Center for Health Security. Ryan’s bio states that “from November 2013 to October 2014 he worked with GPEI as Middle East Polio Response Coordinator” and partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (among others) for a vaccination program which reached 25 million children in eight target countries as part of 44 mass polio vaccination campaigns.
Ironically enough, the WHO released a document in 2019 which states that under no circumstances should contract tracing be used. The document, first reported on by independent researcher Kenny Palurintano, details the WHO’s views on Non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) in response to a pandemic. In section 6.1, “Contact Tracing,” under “quality of evidence”, it states, “There is a very low overall quality of evidence that contact tracing has an unknown effect on the transmission of influenza.” Additionally, under the “Executive Summary”, in Table 1, the WHO lists contact tracing under the heading “Not Recommend In Any Circumstances”.
Despite the WHO’s own documents denying the validity of contact tracing, officials in Ventura County are heeding the call of WHO official Dr. Michael Ryan. At a May 4 press conference, Ventura County Public Health Director Dr. Robert Levin said those who live in homes where they could expose family members to COVID-19 could be removed from their homes and moved into other health facilities.
“We also realize that as we find more contacts, some of the people we find are going to have trouble being isolated. For instance, if they live in a home where there is only one bathroom and there are three or four other people living there, and those people don’t have COVID infection, we’re not going to be able to keep the person in that home,” Levin stated. “Every person who we’re isolating, for instance, needs to have their own bathroom. And so we’ll be moving people like this into other kinds of housing that we have available.”
The Ventura County Public Health board did not elaborate on what other kinds of housing might be made available to those unable to quarantine at home.
If there is a silver lining to the growing support for contact tracing, it might be the public’s own hesitance to join. According to Forbes, nation-states need about 60 percent of their population to adopt and regularly use the tool for it to be effective. Forbes reports that most cities are not likely to achieve 60% or even 40% compliance. Unfortunately, Forbes reminds us, “It’s a relentless fight. And it takes an army of tracers.” Forbes also notes that cities will need to “force changes of behavior” before reopening society. “Contact-tracing apps are being seen as one of the conditions of ending lockdowns—mandating and enforcing their use might become a logical next step.“
How exactly the cities, states, and nations will enforce the use of contact tracing apps remains to be seen, but we are already seeing a rise in reports of arrests of individuals who violate orders to close businesses, stay home, and practice social distancing. What should we expect to see when an individual or an entire community chooses to opt-out of contact tracing surveillance programs?
It is important to understand that contract tracing is only one part of an overall strategy which poses a danger to liberty and privacy. In addition to creating mobile apps which snitch on you, Apple, Facebook and Google are also sharing data with the government to help determine if the public is following social distancing guidelines. MIT Technology Review reported that at least one company is selling an app that uses machine learning Artificial Intelligence to monitor social distancing. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Amazon is using similar software to enforce social distancing between their warehouse staff. There are also reports of “pandemic drones” flying above the skies of Connecticut and Maryland to monitor social distancing and take temperatures.
Together these technologies represent the foundation of the Technocratic State, built on top of the fears of a public which has been conditioned to accept any and all relief from the terrifying round-the-clock coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the public accepts the COVID1984 Technocracy in the name of “getting back to normal” it’s likely the world we have known will be regarded as a relic of a past era, a quaint idea of what life was like and what it could be, if only the public could defeat the new invisible enemy, COVID19. However, it’s important to understand the institutions which are benefitting from the current pandemic. Only by acknowledging the true power players – those who maneuver behind the scenes to profit and enslave – can the free hearts and minds of the world defeat the true enemy: COVID-1984.
Stay tuned for my next investigation which will delve further into the web of Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci, and the Gates funded programs and companies which are profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Question Everything, Come To Your Own Conclusions.
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