As the invisible spectre of COVID-19 loomed, governments the world over were pretty united in the belief that a sure-fire way to combat the virus was to download, install and run a contact tracing app. In Australia’s case it’s COVIDSafe, whereas the French have StopCovid. In India it’s Aarogya Setu, the Italians have Immuni and even our friends in North Macedonia got in on the act, with cool sounding rejected high school band name StopKorona!
It took about five minutes for most concerned citizens to say, hold on, aren’t these just surveillance bots designed to track our every move and find out who we’re conspiring with? “No”, came the cry, “we would never! We’ll take care of your data and promise not to share it with the FBI, Facebook or your local nightclub bouncer, honest!”
As of 1 June 2020, 6.13 million Australians had downloaded COVIDSafe. With a population of roughly 25 million, 80 percent of whom own smartphones, that’s about a 30 percent uptake.
Obviously, there were technical issues – the bloody thing didn’t work very well, especially on older iPhones, Bluetooth had to be switched on while you were out and about, and the app had to be running in the foreground. Not to mention the inconvenient modelling conducted by the University of Oxford, which showed 80 percent of smartphone users would have to be using the app for it to be remotely effective in curtailing viral spread.
China’s COVID app openly mines all sorts of data from its citizens, who must swipe their phones to enter offices, restaurants, parks and malls. Their travel history and retail purchases are tracked, so rulebreakers can be identified and bundled into the back of a Hi-Ace. A green light upon swiping means you’re in good health. Yellow is uh-oh, best hightail it back to the bachelor pad. Red results in the aforementioned divvy van abruptly turning up and a subsequent bop on the noggin. Goodnight, sweet prince.
“Why risk touching anyone’s unmentionables before they’ve been exhaustively analysed, cleansed and rubber-stamped by the government?”
With rumours abounding of tracing apps being repurposed to log and track other health issues, you have to worry how far Big Brother is willing to go in order to control our every thought, product choice and questionable sexual decision. Got a sniffle? Yellow light.
Bought a non-fair-trade cappuccino? Yellow light. Urinary tract infection after a boozy night out in the Cross? Red light, red light!
In Gary Shteyngart’s 2010 book Super Sad True Love Story, characters in near-future USA (in debt to China, run by mad President Cortez) carry an apparat, a phone-like device that projects a hologram over their head at all times. This number, from one to eight hundred, is the individual’s fuckability rating, worked out from their general hotness, sexual health, income bracket, style and purchasing history.
Is this where we’re headed? Tinder and COVIDSafe joining forces to launch GONADSafe? Why risk touching anyone’s unmentionables before they’ve been exhaustively analysed, cleansed and rubber-stamped by the government? How about a dating app that reveals specific details about a user’s sexual history, including names and numbers of everyone they’ve ever bumped, STDs, penis sizes and pubic hairstyle choices?
In the post-corona world, where hygiene practices have turned everyone paranoid and populations have been convinced that surveillance apps are necessary in order to keep everyone safe (dob in your friends and receive frequent flyer points!) only those who are beautiful, government-sanctioned sanitised and wealthy will get laid. For the rest of us, it will be a succession of red flashing lights and Chaturbate marathons. Boomer flu will be the least of our problems.
Grab a copy of the latest Penthouse here.