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The Government Can Bug Your Phone

Discovery Institute Fellow Debra Saunders raises the alarm of present-day technocratic measures

Debra J. Saunders, a fellow at Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership, wrote an article for The Daily Caller this week on the mounting problem of privacy regarding cell phone usage. Saunders expresses concern about the ease in which government and Big Tech companies can mine data and track people through their cell phones.  Saunders thinks the COVID pandemic sped up the process of privacy violations. She recalls a 2021 incident in which the state of Massachusetts purportedly worked with Google to download a COVID tracker app without users’ notice or consent. Now, the state is facing a lawsuit. Saunders reports,

The New Civil Liberties Alliance filed a class-action lawsuit this month against the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to end the “spyware” program with its “brazen disregard for civil liberties.” The group is seeking nominal damages — $1, plus legal fees and expenses — as well as declarations as to the constitutional violations inherent in the program.”

Part of the problem, aside from doing this apart from people’s consent, is that COVID is notoriously difficult to track. Saunders cites Stanford epidemiologist Jay Bhattacharya, who noted that it’s “very difficult” to know who gives COVID to who. This certainly seems the case from personal experience and the many other folks I’ve met who, even in their caution, still came down with the virus. And in many cases, especially among the young, carriers are asymptomatic.  So, it seems unclear at best if the app was even accurate.

Saunders goes on to warn readers of the dangers of “technocracy,” or the union of government and media powers to censor, probe, and control the public out of a concern for “public health” or “safety.” Saunders uses China as a prophetic example, writing,

An immigrant who left China as a kid, Sheng noted that Beijing is working ‘hand in hand with Big Tech’ — tracking citizen whereabouts and shutting down cities or districts where COVID is found. “They know exactly where every one of their citizens is going,” he said, and what they are doing.”

Saunders ends her article by saying, “In a technocracy, freedom is not a priority. Neither is privacy.”

While surely public health and safety are good things to work toward, Saunders raises the alarm over abuse of power and government overreach into the private lives of citizens.


Peter Biles

Peter Biles graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois in 2019 and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is the author of Hillbilly Hymn (Resource Publications, 2022) and Keep and Other Stories (Resource Publications, 2022). He has also written for a variety of publications, including Plough, Dappled Things, The Gospel Coalition, Salvo, and Breaking Ground. Born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma, he currently serves as Writer & Editor for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

The Government Can Bug Your Phone