The Corner


Premier of South Australia: Boy, I Hope You’re Proud We’re Spying on You

Park Hye-ri, 28, a startup business program manager, puts her mobile phone outside a cell at Prison Inside Me, a mock prison facility in Hongcheon, South Korea, November 10, 2018. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

I just read Conor Friedersdorf’s piece on Australia’s astonishing COVID-inspired restrictions and one part in particular jumped out at me.

Intrastate travel within Australia is also severely restricted. And the government of South Australia, one of the country’s six states, developed and is now testing an app as Orwellian as any in the free world to enforce its quarantine rules. People in South Australia will be forced to download an app that combines facial recognition and geolocation. The state will text them at random times, and thereafter they will have 15 minutes to take a picture of their face in the location where they are supposed to be. Should they fail, the local police department will be sent to follow up in person. “We don’t tell them how often or when, on a random basis they have to reply within 15 minutes,” Premier Steven Marshall explained. “I think every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app.”

The bit that jumped out is this:

“I think every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app.”

Sorry, what? Who, in his right mind, is likely to feel anything of the sort? How would that even happen? What does that even mean? I’m fairly sure that you could load me up on every hallucinogenic drug known to man and attach my temples to a car battery and, still, under no circumstances, would I willingly express pride at my government’s decision to run a national pilot for a home-based quarantine app. In what context could such a sentiment even plausibly arise? “You know what, Bruce? Things have been going okay here in South Australia, but until we get the Panopticon, I’ll never feel truly proud of my home.”

It’s a big world, and people are rightly pleased by all sorts of things: their kids, their work, their hobbies, their families, their sports teams. But home-based quarantine apps? Those seem about as likely to make the list as road repairs. At a stretch, people will put up with them, along with a phlegmatic “musn’t grumble.” But pride? There is not a single human being in the world likely to express that feeling. Hell, there are people working in North Korea’s Omniscient Surveillance Department who, upon reading this line, would raise their eyebrows and say, “well come on, old chap, that’s a little much, don’t you think?” What on earth is going on Down Under?


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