These days of confinement, both the Catalan Government and the Spanish government are debating in the public sphere different initiatives aimed at establishing controls to try to stop the pandemic and, at the same time, keep the economy active. A delicate balance to achieve without some sacrifice. And it seems that the government and the elites have decided to sacrifice citizens’ rights to privacy and equality. As always, they try to make us choose between security and personal freedom by facing a false dilemma.
The proposals include informative applications that hide users’ geolocation systems, confirming they are where they claim to be or to identify who is already immune, intending to work and move freely. As comfortable as they may seem, these proposals do not contribute to fighting the pandemic but to eroding fundamental rights in the name of security. It’s the old-fashioned excuse, with a different cause. Before it was terrorism, now it is a pandemic that could have been contained more effectively and minimized if public health had not been savagely curtailed over the last decade.
We firmly believe that these proposals are detrimental because they violate the right to privacy, taking malicious advantage of the gravity of the situation we live in to control the citizens. Surveillance is not the only way to contain the virus, on the contrary, a committed and well-informed population is more efficient, and powerful, than one controlled and maintained in ignorance in a health crisis like the one we are experiencing.
It is unacceptable for an institutional application to conditions access to information about COVID19 to the activation of the geolocation of the mobile device. Our medical history and location cannot be left in the hands of the government to classify us as first-class citizens, with immunity to the virus, and second-class citizens, to whom freedom of movement is restricted “for their good.” We do not even know the long-term consequences of this virus; our data stored sine die by the government can very quickly become a weapon against us in the future, for example, in the hands of an insurer.
Regardless of the privacy issues, initiatives to identify people who have already been through the infection (such as the immunity passport) are highly irresponsible in themselves. Other than the fact that as of right now, we don’t know if being over the infection immunizes against it, these proposals reward risky behaviors on the part of the population that facilitate the contagion, instead of adopting measures to avoid it. The aim is to restrict freedom of movement to anyone who has not been over the virus, so the only way to avoid these restrictions is to be infected. Thus, the government itself is proposing to put large sections of the population in the face of an impossible choice: to sink into exclusion or to become infected and be able to work. This endangers not only the population at risk for whom this can be fatal but also people with fewer resources, as they are the ones who cannot afford to stay home and not go to work.
In the face of these proposals, we believe they should be avoided entirely. We have run too late to implement prevention policies, such as the use of masks and gloves and the rapid detection of infected persons, to minimize the effects of the pandemic as other countries have. However, to protect our rights and our health, we still have time to take similar measures here, which are progressive and do not exacerbate social inequalities, encourage discrimination on medical grounds, or put the population at risk.
Not everything is justified in the name of security. Not before, not now, not ever. We must inform ourselves, empower ourselves, and we take the necessary health, hygiene, and protection measures to take care of our health and that of the people around us, among all of us.
Pirates de Catalunya