When George Orwell wrote “1984,” he was concerned about a surveillance state. Orwell, an avowed socialist himself, saw the potential ramifications of a government that thinks it knows better than the people.
However, it often seems like government officials don’t take “1984” for the warning it was meant to be and instead consider it more of an instruction manual.
At least, that’s how it feels when you see claims that the Trump administration is considering using devices like Amazon Alexa and Apple Watch to help them determine whether or not you get to exercise your Second Amendment rights.
The Trump administration is considering a proposal that would use Google, Amazon and Apple to collect data on users who exhibit characteristics of mental illness that could lead to violent behavior, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
The proposal is part of an initiative to create a Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA), which would be located inside the Health and Human Services Department, the report notes, citing sources inside the administration. The new agency would have a separate budget and the president would be responsible for appointing its director.
Now, the proposal doesn’t mention guns or gun ownership in particular. However, as The Daily Caller points out in this same article:
Trump said mentally ill people are responsible for the uptick in mass shootings. “I do want people to remember the words ‘mental illness.’ These people are mentally ill. … I think we have to start building institutions again because, you know, if you look at the ’60s and ’70s, so many of these institutions were closed,” he said on Aug. 15. The president has also floated the possibility of supporting background checks.
In other words, it’s not difficult to see such devices feeding back into a database or being checked to see what you may or may not say within the confines of your home.
Now, I’m not overly worried. For one, the only Alexa package I own is on my Amazon Kindle, which is generally kept in my bedroom. For another, I’m not mentally unbalanced.
However, I’ve never been a fan of the whole “if you have nothing to hide” argument, especially since there are people who consider interest in firearms a mental illness all on its own.
Geoffery Ling, the lead scientific advisor on HARPA, argues that everyone would be a volunteer, that no one will be prying into someone else’s life against their will, and he may be right, for now.
At some point, I’d expect to see this data being used to determine who can and can’t own a gun. I can easily see it being used to justify red flag seizures against law-abiding citizens. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine an algorithm that warns the government every time someone mentions a certain keyword, which could then be used to justify taking your Second Amendment rights away from you.
No, this is a problem, and this idea should be shut down now before it gets too big to stop.