Connotations of the ‘Coronopticon’
Connotations of the ‘Coronopticon’
  • 장시원
  • 승인 2020.09.16 09:00
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In order to identify the movement of people, as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there are some places, such as bars and clubs, where people need to check the Quick Response (QR) code to certify the visit or else write down their phone numbers, dates of birth, and names. An important question to ask is 'Is the personal information going around safe'?

A British Weeklies Economist created the term 'Coronopticon', a compound word of 'COVID-19' and 'Panopticon'. To be more clear, the panopticon is a concept expanded upon by the French philosopher, Michel Foucault, meaning a form of prison in which a small number of monitors can monitor all inmates without revealing themselves.

In other words, the monitors have the ability to see everything at a glance. This is compounded in the modern age of computer networks and databases thus relating to society itself and a person's privacy. As these words have emerged and received attention, many people are curious whether their information is safe.

Since March 26, Korea's Ministry of National Road Traffic has conducted a COVID-19 epidemiological survey by exchanging information in real-time with 26 institutions, including personal location information and credit card usage details. This has reduced the time needed to identify possibly infected people from about 24 hours to 10 minutes.

Besides, mobile phone base stations, credit cards, Closed-circuit Televisions (CCTV), and other forms of data were tracked to find out the movements of the infected people in a shorter period of time. Beyond this, since June 2020, clubs have been required to introduce QR codes in order to identify visitors.

The government's policy is to find as many contacts in the shortest time to prevent further harm. However, some people have expressed concern that the government might be reinforcing its more complete monitoring and control system by taking advantage of issues created by quarantine and in turn the potential for even greater intrusions upon the private lives of individuals. United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio was also concerned about the invasion of the country's privacy.

As the number of confirmed cases increases not only in South Korea but also in other parts of the world, countries are using different methods of defense. South Korea and China in Asia are using quarantine methods that mobilize all Information Technology (IT) data.

However, it has also induced controversy over the possible 'Big Brother' connotations, which refers to excessive control over society and a monopoly over private information.

On the other hand, western countries such as the U.S. and Europe are using the Bluetooth method of Apple and Google.

This method enables them to share the serial number code of a person when they enter within a certain proximity of a COVID-19 positive person using Bluetooth. If a person has a definite diagnosis, the serial code will inform whether the infected person was in touch with the identified person.

The government claims that these methods provide more personal freedom, but they are of no use unless Bluetooth or certain applications are installed or on. Therefore, this requires more voluntary cooperation from individuals.

Currently, the world evaluates Korea as a country that has performed well with its quarantine procedures, but this is at the possible expense of privacy.

As such, it is important to find a point of contact between quarantine and civil liberties, but this is a task that has yet to be solved. That is why the question of what should be prioritized between the safety and freedom of citizens still lingers in our minds.


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