Governments around the world have partnered with tech companies to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. But their high-tech solutions haven’t saved lives — they’ve simply lined the pockets of Big Tech.

By Kevin Klyman, Jacobin

In April 2020, Google and Apple announced a partnership to “beat” COVID-19 by releasing contact-tracing applications on Android and Apple devices around the world. Subsequent announcements about the number of lives saved or infections prevented using these apps have been conspicuously absent, as the Bluetooth technology underlying these apps does not work. Bluetooth is not precise enough to detect close contacts who test positive for COVID, as even the inventors of Bluetooth admit.

Nevertheless, governments the world over have followed suit, authorizing the private sector to collect sensitive biometric data in partnership with health authorities. These public-private partnerships waste scarce time and money. They are examples of “technology theater,” tech initiatives that only work to distract media and the public from systemic solutions to the pandemic.

Woman sitting in almost empty airport terminal due to coronavirus pandemic/Covid-19 outbreak travel restrictions.

Basic public health initiatives — such as hiring contact tracers, providing facilities and financial compensation for quarantining, knocking on doors to decrease vaccine hesitancy, and providing free masks, tests, and vaccines — have proven to be the best ways to save lives during the pandemic. Unfortunately, many governments have chosen instead to partner with Big Tech to implement needlessly complex initiatives that do little more than boost large companies’ profits and increase surveillance.

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