Yuval Noah Harari has warned that the coronavirus could be used as a justification to implement biometric mass surveillance after the crisis has subsided.
The Israeli professor and historian has written at length about the possible consequences of a futuristic biotechnological world in which intelligent biological organisms are surpassed by their own creations.
And in a recent interview, Harari spelled out his concerns over the measures being taken to combat COVID-19 particularly in regards to surveillance.
“One of the dangers in the current epidemic is that it will justify extreme measures of surveillance, especially biometric surveillance which will be justified as a means to deal with this emergency,” Harari told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“But even after the emergency will be over, it will remain.
“We are talking about a system of monitoring an entire population all the time for biometric signals, allegedly in order to protect people from future epidemics, but this can form the basis of an extreme totalitarian regime.”
Harari explained how a tech-led response to epidemics such as the coronavirus can lead to a slippery slope towards totalitarianism.
“We are facing a huge issue of surveillance and privacy in our age, and I think we will see a big battle between privacy and health, and health is likely to win, that people will have no privacy at all, in the name of protecting them from the spread of such epidemics,” he continued.
“The thing is that the technology can be very effective. We now have the technology to monitor entire populations, and discover an outbreak of a new disease when it’s only just beginning and it’s very easy to contain, and to follow all the infected people.
“But this kind of surveillance system can be used to monitor many other things: what people think, what people feel and, if we aren’t careful, this epidemic can give justification for the accelerating development of totalitarian regimes.”