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A future post-COVID-19: Privacy, a collateral victim - 03/30/2050

As is often the case in times when everything is going well, the future seemed clear and obvious until recently. And then came the unthinkable, the "black swan", the one we saw in the movies but we weren't thinking "for real".

2020 was a landmark year in the evolution of our societies: it accelerated certain trends and stopped others altogether.

With the start of a new decade, everyone was taking stock and looking forward to the next few decades. And then it all literally stopped.

The world has faced, for the first time in more than a century, a pandemic. This situation necessitated immediate action, urgently, to make use of existing tools and to push their capacities or to innovate on the way we use them.

This is how our mobile phones, these famous smartphones that revolutionized the early 2000s, have become a massive hunting weapon.

Faced with the need to confine and limit infectious contacts, the health authorities of all States have practiced "contact tracing", consisting in retracing the whole journey of an infected person and finding all the people with whom she was able to interact. To facilitate this work, Tech companies have made available to authorities the data collected by each user's mobile tools.

At the time, these tracking methods were used more and more, in particular to track a person's movements during a criminal investigation. And, more or less openly, Tech companies used these tools to track consumers and offer them suitable advertising.

But COVID-19 has made it possible to institutionalize this use which, when the crisis ended, has quietly remained at the level of governments. It was indeed tempting for governments, especially those with authoritarian tendencies, to use these tools to follow their opponents, identify crowd movements, follow protests, rallies ...

Because, after all, as many justified these decisions: the population has accepted these uses! They were just kept. In fact, caught in stress and fear of infection, many populations have accepted these tools to be put in place. At the time, social networks were more platforms of denunciation than connections.

Surfing on this wave and this need to know who was sick, and taking a lot of freedoms on the protection of personal data and on privacy, governments have found their interest. And after one year, two years, ten years, finally the use of permanent tracking has become part of everyday life.

Repeated natural disasters have then come to provide additional justification: finding survivors, following movements in crisis situations to guarantee security, etc.

If the recipes are not new, the tools are more and more efficient and even the most open of democracies could not resist the temptation.

The question now posed by many defenders of individual freedoms: how to go back? At the very least, how do you stop doing it?

The terrorism of the 1990s had made it possible to maintain a listening and monitoring system. The pandemics and other climatic events of the 2000s allowed the maintenance of involuntary individual transparency…

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