Between Surveillance and Technological Solutionism: A Critique of Privacy-Preserving Apps for COVID-19 Contact-Tracing
Mann, M., Mitchell, P., & Foth, M. (2022). Between surveillance and technological solutionism: A critique of privacy-preserving apps for COVID-19 contact-tracing. New Media and Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221109800
19 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2020 Last revised: 28 Jul 2022
Date Written: June 7, 2022
In this article, we examine the rise of contact-tracing apps during the first 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic as a new form of technological solutionism – a technological or techno-social fix that can be deployed at national scale in response to an urgent, supranational problem. A dystopian view saw the rapid development and proliferation of COVID-19 contact-tracing apps as a vanguard technology for surveillance. Expediently deployed as a technological fix to the pandemic, contact-tracing was seen to threaten to transform a state of emergency into a state of exception, under which accepted or constitutional laws and norms might be suspended. Here, we extend early critiques of the contact-tracing app as a ‘technofix’ to argue the growing intervention of global technology corporations in digital governance and affairs of national sovereignty throughout the COVID-19 pandemic represents a new frontier of state–industrial surveillance that exploits people’s pre-investment in and dependence on technology corporations. We exemplify this with the ‘technofix’ of the Google–Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) framework and critically examine the notion of a decentralised and privacy-preserving Bluetooth-based contact-tracing framework proposed by global technology corporations that may threaten state sovereignty when determining public health responses to current or future crises.
Keywords: Bluetooth surveillance; contact-tracing; coronavirus; COVID-19; data sovereignty; disaster capitalism; exposure notification; surveillance capitalism; technological solutionism; technological sovereignty; technology corporations
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation