Season 1, CHATROOM 6

You’re Being Tracked: Pandemic Capitalism

Disaster brings change. We discuss surveillance and public health during Covid-19. These days, it’s not only governments capturing raw data about us. A public health vacuum left by governments over decades is being filled by tech companies, which have stepped up surveillance, says Martin French, a sociologist and surveillance expert at the University of Concordia in Montreal.

Time Markers (mins: sec)

  • 00:09 – news clips
  • 1:23 – overview of episode
  • 3:23 – links between public health, epidemiology and surveillance
  • 4:16 – differences between surveillance and epidemiology
  • 6:00 – how do contact tracing apps work?
  • 8:33 – dangers of contact tracing apps
  • 8:50 – what is surveillance capitalism?
  • 12:08 – apps cement power by getting more people online
  • 14:07 – what is disaster capitalism?
  • 16:38 – disaster capitalism during COVID-19
  • 17:25 – lack of public health investment in India
  • 18:00 – links between surveillance and bias
  • 19:00 – epidemiology and its unintended consequences

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Reading List

Zuboff, S. (2018). The age of surveillance capitalism: The fight for the future at the new frontier of power. Profile Books.

Klein, N. (2008). The shock doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism. Penguin Books.

French, M., Guta, A., Gagnon, M., Mykhalovskiy, E., Roberts, S. L., Goh, S., McClelland, A., & McKelvey, F. (2020). Corporate contact tracing as a pandemic response. Critical Public Health, 0(0), 1–8. 

Leith, D. and Farrell, S. 2020. Contact tracing app privacy: What data is shared by Europe’s GAEN contact tracing apps. Testing Apps for COVID-19 Tracing (TACT),

Naomi Klein: How big tech plans to profit from the pandemic

COVID-19 and the Rise of Participatory SIGINT:An Examination of the Rise in Government Surveillance Through Mobile Applications

Surveillance in an Era of Pandemic and Protest.