The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed how we live our lives. With social distancing measures and lockdowns becoming commonplace in Western societies, governments and other organizations have had to adopt new surveillance measures to monitor compliance and contain the spread of the virus. The pandemic has altered the surveillance dynamics in Western societies by accelerating existing technologies, such as facial recognition and contact tracing apps, and introducing new ones, such as remote temperature monitoring and drones. While these measures have effectively slowed the spread of the virus, they have also raised concerns about privacy and civil liberties. In this essay, we will examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on surveillance dynamics in Western societies and explore the implications of these changes for individuals, organizations, and society.
The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted surveillance dynamics in Western societies. Governments and other organizations have introduced new measures to monitor compliance with social distancing measures, track the spread of the virus, and enforce quarantine rules. At the same time, existing surveillance technologies, such as facial recognition and contact tracing apps, have been accelerated and deployed on a large scale(Howe et al., 2021). While these measures have effectively slowed the spread of the virus, they have also raised concerns about privacy and civil liberties. One of the most visible changes in surveillance dynamics in Western societies during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the deployment of contact tracing apps. These apps use Bluetooth technology to detect when two smartphones are in close proximity to each other for a certain amount of time. If one of the users later tests positive for COVID-19, the app will notify the other user and advise them to self-isolate. Contact tracing apps have been widely adopted in countries such as Singapore, Australia, and Germany and have been credited with helping to contain the spread of the virus (Howe et al., 2021). So as learned in class COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant changes to the surveillance dynamics in Western societies. The pandemic has increased the use of digital surveillance technologies, such as contact tracing apps and facial recognition systems. These changes have implications for individuals, organizations, and society. For instance, it has led to the Neolithic Demographic Transition that marked the first significant growth spurt of the human population and, at the same time, brought the Classical Demographic Transition that is characterized by a return to a Malthusian equilibrium at a higher level of population, followed by the modern rise of the population (population explosion) and a new equilibrium. Therefore the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted this equilibrium by causing a decrease in population growth rates in Western societies due to a decrease in birth rates, an increase in death rates, and migration disruptions. However, there have been concerns about the privacy implications of these apps, particularly concerning the collection and use of personal data. Critics have argued that contact tracing apps could set a dangerous precedent for the normalization of mass surveillance and the erosion of individual privacy rights.
Another area in which the COVID-19 pandemic has altered surveillance dynamics is facial recognition technology. In some countries, such as China, facial recognition technology has been used to monitor compliance with quarantine rules, with cameras placed outside people’s homes to detect when they leave. In the UK, facial recognition technology has been deployed at railway stations to detect people not wearing masks, with offenders being fined. While the use of facial recognition technology has been justified on the grounds of public health and safety, there are concerns about the accuracy and reliability of the technology, as well as its potential for misuse (Dwivedi et al., 2020). For instance, using digital surveillance technologies to monitor the spread of COVID-19 has also raised concerns about privacy and civil liberties. This has implications for democracy and human rights, particularly in societies grappling with surveillance and authoritarianism issues. This depicts how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the population dynamics in Western societies, eventually impacting individuals, organizations, and society.
Another significant impact on surveillance dynamics during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the adoption of remote temperature monitoring. This technology allows organizations to monitor the body temperature of employees and visitors using thermal cameras without the need for physical contact. Remote temperature monitoring has been widely adopted in workplaces, schools, and public places such as airports and train stations. While this technology can help to identify individuals with a high temperature who may be symptomatic with COVID-19, there are concerns about the potential for false positives and the invasion of privacy (Costanzo & Flores, 2020). Integrating it with further studies shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our daily lives and our privacy and surveillance dynamics in Western societies. The pandemic has led to the adoption new technologies and measures to prevent the spread of the virus, which have raised significant concerns over collecting and using personal data. For example, it has led to one of the most significant changes in surveillance dynamics, the widespread use of contact tracing apps. Governments and health organizations after developing and implementing these apps to track the movement of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, the contact tracing apps have proven to be effective in preventing the spread of the virus while raising concerns over data privacy and security (Costanzo & Flores, 2020). Many worry that their data may be used for other purposes or shared with third-party entities without their consent.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the deployment of drones for surveillance purposes. In some countries, drones have been used to monitor compliance with social distancing measures, such as in Spain, where drones were used to enforce lockdown rules. Drones have also been used to disinfect public areas and deliver medical supplies. While drones can effectively reduce the spread of the virus, there are concerns about the potential for abuse, including the invasion of privacy and the potential for misuse by law enforcement (Mbunge et al., 2021). Connecting this to what was taught in class, one can see that the impact caused a significant change in surveillance dynamics that has increased the use of facial recognition technology. Governments and law enforcement agencies have used this technology to monitor individuals’ movements and enforce quarantine and social distancing measures. However, facial recognition technology has been criticized for its potential misuse, particularly regarding racial profiling and bias (Mbunge et al., 2021). There are concerns that facial recognition technology could be used to track individuals’ movements beyond the pandemic, which could lead to further erosion of privacy rights.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the surveillance dynamics in Western societies by increasing contact tracing and tracking technologies. Governments and health authorities have implemented various forms of contact tracing, including manual and digital contact tracing, to monitor the spread of the virus and contain outbreaks. Digital contact tracking technologies, such as smartphone apps, have been developed and implemented in many countries to alert individuals who may have been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (Urbaczewski & Lee, 2020). While these technologies have been effective in identifying potential outbreaks and limiting the spread of the virus, they have also raised concerns about privacy and surveillance. As taught in class, one connection between the pandemic and demographic transitions is that it has caused privacy and civil liberties and impacted the importance of demographic entrapment, where individuals’ demographic characteristics limit their ability to move to areas with better opportunities. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic significant impact on the surveillance dynamics in Western societies has led to a slowdown in population growth, moving towards a Malthusian equilibrium at a higher level of population, similar to the Neolithic and Classical Demographic Transitions (Urbaczewski & Lee, 2020). Indeed the pandemic has led to a reduction in birth rates in many countries as people delay having children due to the economic uncertainty and the fear of illness, leading to a reduction in population growth.
Another impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on surveillance dynamics in Western societies has been the increased use of surveillance technologies in the workplace. With many employees working remotely, organizations have turned to surveillance technologies to monitor productivity and ensure that employees work the hours they are contracted to work. These technologies include employee monitoring software, which can track keystrokes and monitor employees’ activity on company computers, and video conferencing software, which can monitor employees during virtual meetings (Allam & Jones, 2020). While these technologies may increase productivity and help organizations ensure that their employees are working effectively, they raise concerns about privacy and surveillance, mainly when employees work from home. Connecting this to what was taught in class, one can see its connection with population transitions. The newly implemented technologies and monitoring systems that track and trace infected individuals even when working at home have revealed the vulnerability of society’s carrying capacity and the importance of sustainability. For instance, employers tend to know their employees’ private life, which might lead others to disrespect them because of their social class or what they see from their home (Allam & Jones, 2020). Therefore, the increase in surveillance can lead to further resource depletion, highlighting the need for moderation in consumption and a sustainable approach to development, similar to the Earth’s carrying capacity concept.
Finally, the implications of this change in population dynamics for individuals, organizations, and society are significant. For example, as birth rates continue to decline, fewer young people will enter the workforce, leading to a shortage of workers and potentially lower economic growth. According to what is taught in class regarding the final impacts of the implications of this change on the population, Organizations may also face challenges in recruiting new talent and may need to adapt to changing demographic trends to remain competitive. Additionally, the increase in death rates due to COVID-19 has led to a significant loss of life, and the pandemic has exposed disparities in access to healthcare and resources, which has implications for social justice and equity (Howe et al., 2021). For instance, the implications of the changes for individuals caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on surveillance dynamics in Western societies, organizations, and society as whole show similarities with the Neolithic and Classical Demographic Transitions. The pandemic has caused a slowdown in population growth because the pandemic has reduced birth rates in many countries as people delay having children due to the fear of illness and economic uncertainty.
In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant changes in the surveillance dynamics of Western societies. The pandemic has accelerated the use of existing technologies and introduced new ones to monitor compliance and contain the spread of the virus. While these measures have effectively slowed the spread of the virus, they have also raised concerns about privacy and civil liberties. The deployment of contact tracing apps, facial recognition technology, and remote temperature monitoring has been widespread. However, adopting these technologies has also raised significant concerns over collecting and using personal data. The pandemic has disrupted the population dynamics in Western societies, eventually impacting individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. Governments and organizations must find a balance between protecting public health and ensuring individual privacy and civil liberties. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that there is a need for greater transparency and accountability in digital surveillance technologies. It has also highlighted the importance of developing ethical guidelines and regulatory frameworks to safeguard the privacy and rights of individuals in the face of technological advancements.
Allam, Z., & Jones, D. S. (2020, February). On the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the smart city network: universal data sharing standards coupled with artificial intelligence (AI) to benefit urban health monitoring and management. In Healthcare (Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 46). MDPI.
Chakraborty, I., & Maity, P. (2020). COVID-19 outbreak: Migration, effects on society, global environment and prevention. Science of the total environment, 728, 138882.
Costanzo, S., & Flores, A. (2020). A non-contact integrated body-ambient temperature sensors platform to contrast COVID-19. Electronics, 9(10), 1658.
Dwivedi, Y. K., Hughes, D. L., Coombs, C., Constantiou, I., Duan, Y., Edwards, J. S., … & Upadhyay, N. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on information management research and practice: Transforming education, work and life. International journal of information management, 55, 102211.
Howe, D. C., Chauhan, R. S., Soderberg, A. T., & Buckley, M. R. (2021). Paradigm shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizational dynamics, 50(4), 100804.
Mbunge, E., Chitungo, I., & Dzinamarira, T. (2021). Unbundling the Significance of Cognitive Robots and Drones deployed to tackle COVID-19 pandemic: A rapid review to unpack emerging opportunities to improve healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa. Cognitive Robotics, 1, 205-213.
Urbaczewski, A., & Lee, Y. J. (2020). Information technology and the pandemic: A preliminary multinational analysis of the impact of mobile tracking technology on the COVID-19 contagion control. European Journal of Information Systems, 29(4), 405-414.