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Surveillance, intelligence, and ethics in a COVID-19 World
New book chapter
This week, National Security Intelligence and Ethics was released. As part of the Studies in Intelligence series, this edited volume (from Seumas Miller, Mitt Regan, and Patrick F. Walsh) looks at the ethical issues that arise from national security intelligence collection and analysis. My contribution looks at how states used and abused national security intelligence collection platforms during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The collection features many intelligence studies heavy hitters like Ross Bellaby, David Omand, Mark Phythian, Loch Johnson, and many others. The collection is open access, so you can read it for free, and I hope you do!
In the initial weeks and months of the COVID-19 pandemic, states grasped at any possible tools to help them battle the economic, health and human impacts of the disease. The severity of the crisis led states to use, or consider using, any tools at their disposal, including those that had previously only been used for national security applications. The pandemic struck at a time when personal technology (such as smartphones) and surveillance technology uses were at an all-time high and states looked to both of these types of technology to stop the spread of the virus. The use of intelligence and surveillance tools that were once largely purview of security, intelligence and law enforcement being used for pandemic surveillance represents the lengths that many states have been willing to take to stop the spread and limit the damage.
States leveraged personal technologies primarily for contact tracing purposes, or to provide notifications to users of possible exposure to COVID-19. However, some states sought to use tools developed for national security purposes (such as counter-terrorism or counter-espionage), which often exploit personal technology data, to help contain the virus. Other surveillance technologies, such as closed- circuit cameras and facial recognition software, were also deployed to combat the virus. The use of these tools and techniques, once largely the purview of security, intelligence and law enforcement, represented the extraordinary lengths that many states took to stop the infection. These efforts involved collecting data on citizens from cell phones, financial transactions and social media intelligence and combined it with or exploited it for health data, raising significant concerns about privacy and civil liberties. (Read more)
And if you’re looking for more of my writing on intelligence, here are a few links for you: