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Andreas Kluth

If We Must Build a Surveillance State, Let’s Do It Properly

As we develop new apps to track the coronavirus, the best model isn’t the U.S., China, Germany or South Korea. It’s Taiwan.

It says you’re supposed to be in quarantine.

It says you’re supposed to be in quarantine.

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images AsiaPac

The Covid-19 pandemic is in many ways an informational problem. Who’s carrying the virus right now? Am I in range of their aerosol exhalations? Who’s already had it? Do their antibodies make them immune? If I test positive, how can I alert all the people who’ve been near me? And what, by the way, should those people do with this knowledge?

So information is one key to controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2. That’s good news, because we happen to live in a time when we’re able to gather and use data in ways our ancestors couldn’t have imagined. Nobody during the bubonic plagues of the Middle Ages or the Spanish Flu of 1918 thought: “I bet there’s an app for that.”