Thursday, August 26, 2021

COVID Mandatory Scanning and Signing-in - A Game Changer

Scanning and signing-in is to become mandatory. The government has announced that seven days after this latest lockdown ends mandatory record keeping will be required at all alert levels for busy places and events’.

The fear of COVID is real and we do need to protect ourselves from the virus, but we also need to look at the costs and long-term effects of practices and procedures introduced to assist in controlling outbreaks of COVID.

Making scanning or signing-in mandatory is a major change in our social behaviour and will have long-term ramifications. Mandatory signing-in is definitely on the slippery slope to normalising state surveillance.

The expectation of privacy and awareness of surveillance have been steadily changing over recent years, but this has been through (supposedly) personal informed choices such as the use of Facebook, google location, fit-bits, playing PokémonGo, and for many of us, scanning in using the COVID-19 app (or the paper equivalent). However, now it will be mandated by the state. Making it mandatory to scan or sign-in to certain places really expands the normalisation of surveillance.

A variety of people have raised concerns about how the mandatory signing-in will work and especially how difficult it will be to be enforced. Some though, including Law professor Andrew Geddis and Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, have raised concerns about the lack of legislative guarantee that the information gathered can only ever be used for Covid-related contact tracing purposes. The Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has indicated that a legislative change is not planned.

But there must be some legislation governing the practice of mandatory scanning and signing-in. At the very least, mandatory signing-in must be limited to the pandemic. The data must be used for the purpose of COVID tracking only, and the practice must have a sunset clause.

However, beyond legal changes – we should be considering the long-term effects of normalising state surveillance. Making it a government requirement to sign-in is changing the understandings of privacy and data sovereignty, and in the long-term it is ensuring more wide-spread acceptance of state surveillance as normal.

The Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards has said that maybe we should explore alternatives to ‘a coercive state-enforced system of signing-in and scanning’ before accepting mandatory scanning-in. He is right.

Changes have come with COVID and outside of the health issues, it is bringing many negative effects on society. In the rush to get back to ‘normal’, we are entering a dangerous, ethical minefield. Mandatory signing-in may just be the tip of the ice-berg, the next step could be vaccine certificates and or passports and even ID cards.

Making signing-in mandatory is a game changer.

 

Further Reading:

'The tricky legal grey areas around mandatory masking up and scanning in' by Andrew Geddis in The SpinOff, 24 August 2021. 

'Govt urged to ban police from using contact tracing data' by Marc Daalder, Newsroom, 24 August 2021.



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