Contact Tracing in the Stalker State

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Google and Apple have partnered to create a Bluetooth-based app that collects location data to notify users if they’ve come in close contact with anyone who tests positive for Covid-19. Hamid Khan, an organizer with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, is sounding an alarm.

From the Chinese Exclusion Act to COINTELPRO and the early criminalization of people with HIV, the history of policing the body in the name of public safety is long, Khan reminds us. “The measures we approve today can’t be seen outside of that context.”

Khan fears the rollout of contact tracing in the United States will accelerate private data collection and its weaponization by the carceral state. Public health resources should be used for mass community education in the fight against Covid-19, not in the gross expansion of surveillance, he argues.

For more information on the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, please visit:

Contact tracing sounds innocent enough, but public health has been one of the primary tools for social control over the years. Contact tracing has historically been weaponized and used to demonize certain communities who were then excluded from much of society in the name of public health. A whole surveillance industrial complex has been established with third parties making massive profits. This was particularly evident in the wake of 9/11 with the massive expansion of federal surveillance powers. Hamid Khan cautions us against trying to police our way out of these problems.

For more Forward Thinking on Covid-19, watch the full series here.