At a press conference Sunday Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioner John Harrington compared the methods police were using to identify protestors to those used to track COVID-19 cases.
We’ve “begun analyzing the data of who we have arrested, and begun, actually, doing what you would think as almost pretty similar to our COVID. It’s contact tracing. Who are they associated with? What platforms are they advocating for?”
The Department of Public Safety with local state and federal law enforcement and emergency response agencies.
Public health and privacy experts reacted with alarm, saying that conflating law enforcement and contact tracing could hamper COVID-19 tracing efforts by sowing distrust of the process as protests continue across the U.S.
“You need people to engage with contact tracing to save lives during an epidemic,” said Nigel Smart, a Swiss professor who has been a key figure in pushing Europe towards decentralized contact tracing protocols. He said that from a public policy point of view, the statement was both worrisome and short sighted.