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This Australian Method of Tracking COVID Compliance is Downright Creepy

The more we cover the COVID crackdowns from Australia, the worse the situation over there seems to be.

September 05, 2021

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The government of South Australia, Tyler O’Neil reported for Fox News, is implementing a program for people to use an app that has facial recognition software and geolocation to prove they are abiding by a 14-day quarantine requirement.

Here’s how it works, as explained by O’Neil:

Steven Marshall, premier of the state of South Australia, launched the quarantine app policy in late August. Residents returning from New South Wales and Victoria, two other Australian states, may spend their 14 days in post-travel quarantine at home, rather than in a hotel, so long as they download and use the “Orwellian” app, developed by the South Australian government, ABC News Australia reported.

The app uses geolocation and facial recognition software to track those in quarantine. The app will contact people at random, asking them to provide proof of their location within 15 minutes.

“We don’t tell them how often or when, on a random basis they have to reply within 15 minutes,” Marshall said.

If the resident cannot verify his or her location or identity when requested, the South Australia Health Department will notify the police, who will then conduct an in-person check on the person in quarantine. Marshall said the government will not be storing any of the information provided to the app.

As creepy as this sounds, some pointed out it could have been worse:

While a conservative expert described the policy as “Orwellian,” he told Fox News that it represents an improvement over the current COVID-19 policy. Australians voluntarily choose the quarantine app over alternative quarantine measures.

In a statement to Fox News, the government of South Australia noted that registration to use the app for home quarantine is voluntary. Only about 20 people who have applied for the program are using the app in early September.

“The home quarantine app is for a selected cohort of returning South Australians who have applied to be a part of the trial. if successful, it will help safely ease the burden of travel restrictions associated with the pandemic,” a government spokesperson told Fox News.

“I think it is accurate to describe it as Orwellian, but one has to understand the context,” Robert Carling, an economics senior fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies, told Fox News. “It is home quarantine Australian style, and the alternative is hotel quarantine Australian style, under police guard, which people hate.”

Carling explained that South Australia is launching a trial home quarantine as a replacement for hotel quarantine, a nationwide policy, “and Australians would be happy to take any form of home quarantine instead of hotel quarantine.”

“Hotel quarantine is much more oppressive than home quarantine, even if the latter comes with Orwellian surveillance features,” the CIS scholar explained. Australians have to pay for hotel quarantine themselves, which costs about $2,500 Australian ($1,850 U.S.D.), he estimated.

“Since March 2020 Australians have been banned even from leaving the country unless they can get a special permit to do so,” Carling explained. He called this exit ban a “totalitarian, North Korea-style measure. Many other countries have had compulsory quarantine of some kind but they haven’t had exit bans.”

“International travel cannot be viable with hotel quarantine but it would be with home quarantine,” the scholar noted. “Of course, we would prefer no quarantine at all, but that seems to be a bridge too far for our extremely COVID-risk averse governments at this point.”

If such an app is an improvement, it’s clear that the bar is very low. I analyzed Australia’s numbers last weekend, when reporting on the capture and arrest of Anthony Karam, known as “public health enemy number one” for allegedly failing to quarantine. Tragically, Karam’s father has died, but he’s one of very few in the country, especially compared to other world countries.

And, as O’Neil reported in his coverage:

According to Johns Hopkins University data, South Australia has reported zero new cases of COVID-19 since August 23 and zero deaths since April 12. South Australia has the fifth-largest population of Australian states, at 1.8 million. New South Wales, with a population of 8.1 million and the major city of Sydney, represents the majority of new cases and deaths, driving a resurgence in the country.

Even notably leftist outlets have raised concerns. Writing for The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf put the facial recognition app on many people’s radar, as he suggested in his Thursday piece that “Australia Traded Away Too Much Liberty.” Marshall is even mentioned as saying that “I think every South Australian sho….

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