Privacy and dissent in the social media, COVID age | Editorials

Privacy and dissent face some significant challenges as technology and social media converge with COVID-19 vaccination pushes and very coarse political and cultural discourse.

An Israeli firm’s spyware has been used to hack and track the smartphones of journalists, political dissidents and human rights advocates in numerous countries, according to Amnesty International.

This needs to be fully investigated including the spyware’s potential use in the U.S. and for the targeting of media and voices of dissent. It is the stuff out of “Jason Bourne” movies and Orwellian novels and should not be discounted. Do you want all your texts, emails and internet histories at the fingertips of intelligence agencies or other government and private sector actors?

Voices of dissent also continue to be scrutinized and potentially restricted by Facebook, YouTube and Twitter over content related to coronavirus vaccines, the 2020 election results and the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. The Biden administration is pressuring Facebook and its social media brethren to ban anti-vaccine advocates who are discouraging others from getting COVID vaccinations.

This certainly has potential First Amendment concerns. The government coercing or using private businesses to censor dissenting voices is still censorship and unconstitutional.

Beyond politics, our personal privacy is also an issue whether on social media or the workplace.

Those range from questions about vaccine status — with longstanding medical privacy policies at times jettisoned during COVID pandemic — and social media posts scoured for offending language or political views. Will questions about COVID vaccine status open the door to other medical and personal privacy questions from employers and others?

These can be dangerous places for employers to venture and show the intersection of technology, politics and coronavirus vaccines can put privacy and dissent in peril.

Free speech, dissent and privacy are still important — and still very American ideals — even in the current climate. They cannot be lost in the mix and the debates over social media, vaccines and vaccination status.

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