Public Participation as a Privilege for the Immune? LPE on COVID-19 (vol. 5)

This post is part of our ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 Crisis from an LPE Perspective.

Sam Hull–

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, debate has begun over when and how to restart society. Some proposals, such as those that call for seniors to sacrifice themselves for the good of “the economy,” expose the inherent inhumanity of those who valorize profits above all else.

Others have explored how to reinstate economic activity without abandoning public health considerations. German researchers have proposed the issuance of “immunity passports,” whereby workers who have already had COVID-19 and developed antibodies “could be issued with a kind of vaccination pass that would for example allow them to [be] exempted from restrictions on their activity.” Italian politicians across the political spectrum have adopted the idea, and the White House coronavirus task force is reportedly discussing it.

Even absent such policies, there is also the possibility that businesses (i.e. “the market”) could impose similar restrictions on their own employees. Worries about insurance payments, higher sick days, and potential shutdowns should an employee contract the virus might lead employers to restrict hiring to those who can prove immunity. And perhaps to fire those who cannot.

What to make of these possibilities?

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Friday Roundup

Happy Friday!

This week, the public continued to grapple with the revelation that Facebook disclosed more than 50 million users’ account information to the right-wing political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. LPE contributor Frank Pasquale has previously described how we should understand the big internet platforms as exercising a form of “functional sovereignty,” a description seemed as apt than this week as ever, when people realized how little government regulation restricted Facebook’s use of their private information. Here are three recent pieces that have caught our attention with an LPE take on the issue:

  • Beware the Big Five – the U.S. military and intelligence sector’s venture capital funding has fostered the tech sector’s consolidation and permitted the growth of private empires on the back of publicly funded R&D.
  • Facebook Isn’t Just Violating Our Privacy – Facebook is insistent on seeing its failures as harming individuals, never society as a whole, but we must insist on using collective questions to challenge Silicon Valley’s libertarian perspective.
  • The New Military-Industrial Complex of Big Data Psy-Ops – Silicon Valley’s behavioral science research has been critical to the military and intelligence apparatus.

 

Elsewhere on the web:

 

Nick Werle is a student at Yale Law School.