Arquivo da tag: Vigilância tecnológica

A real-time revolution will up-end the practice of macroeconomics (The Economist)

The Economist Oct 23rd 2021

DOES ANYONE really understand what is going on in the world economy? The pandemic has made plenty of observers look clueless. Few predicted $80 oil, let alone fleets of container ships waiting outside Californian and Chinese ports. As covid-19 let rip in 2020, forecasters overestimated how high unemployment would be by the end of the year. Today prices are rising faster than expected and nobody is sure if inflation and wages will spiral upward. For all their equations and theories, economists are often fumbling in the dark, with too little information to pick the policies that would maximise jobs and growth.

Yet, as we report this week, the age of bewilderment is starting to give way to greater enlightenment. The world is on the brink of a real-time revolution in economics, as the quality and timeliness of information are transformed. Big firms from Amazon to Netflix already use instant data to monitor grocery deliveries and how many people are glued to “Squid Game”. The pandemic has led governments and central banks to experiment, from monitoring restaurant bookings to tracking card payments. The results are still rudimentary, but as digital devices, sensors and fast payments become ubiquitous, the ability to observe the economy accurately and speedily will improve. That holds open the promise of better public-sector decision-making—as well as the temptation for governments to meddle.

The desire for better economic data is hardly new. America’s GNP estimates date to 1934 and initially came with a 13-month time lag. In the 1950s a young Alan Greenspan monitored freight-car traffic to arrive at early estimates of steel production. Ever since Walmart pioneered supply-chain management in the 1980s private-sector bosses have seen timely data as a source of competitive advantage. But the public sector has been slow to reform how it works. The official figures that economists track—think of GDP or employment—come with lags of weeks or months and are often revised dramatically. Productivity takes years to calculate accurately. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that central banks are flying blind.

Bad and late data can lead to policy errors that cost millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in lost output. The financial crisis would have been a lot less harmful had the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero in December 2007, when America entered recession, rather than in December 2008, when economists at last saw it in the numbers. Patchy data about a vast informal economy and rotten banks have made it harder for India’s policymakers to end their country’s lost decade of low growth. The European Central Bank wrongly raised interest rates in 2011 amid a temporary burst of inflation, sending the euro area back into recession. The Bank of England may be about to make a similar mistake today.

The pandemic has, however, become a catalyst for change. Without the time to wait for official surveys to reveal the effects of the virus or lockdowns, governments and central banks have experimented, tracking mobile phones, contactless payments and the real-time use of aircraft engines. Instead of locking themselves in their studies for years writing the next “General Theory”, today’s star economists, such as Raj Chetty at Harvard University, run well-staffed labs that crunch numbers. Firms such as JPMorgan Chase have opened up treasure chests of data on bank balances and credit-card bills, helping reveal whether people are spending cash or hoarding it.

These trends will intensify as technology permeates the economy. A larger share of spending is shifting online and transactions are being processed faster. Real-time payments grew by 41% in 2020, according to McKinsey, a consultancy (India registered 25.6bn such transactions). More machines and objects are being fitted with sensors, including individual shipping containers that could make sense of supply-chain blockages. Govcoins, or central-bank digital currencies (CBDCs), which China is already piloting and over 50 other countries are considering, might soon provide a goldmine of real-time detail about how the economy works.

Timely data would cut the risk of policy cock-ups—it would be easier to judge, say, if a dip in activity was becoming a slump. And the levers governments can pull will improve, too. Central bankers reckon it takes 18 months or more for a change in interest rates to take full effect. But Hong Kong is trying out cash handouts in digital wallets that expire if they are not spent quickly. CBDCs might allow interest rates to fall deeply negative. Good data during crises could let support be precisely targeted; imagine loans only for firms with robust balance-sheets but a temporary liquidity problem. Instead of wasteful universal welfare payments made through social-security bureaucracies, the poor could enjoy instant income top-ups if they lost their job, paid into digital wallets without any paperwork.

The real-time revolution promises to make economic decisions more accurate, transparent and rules-based. But it also brings dangers. New indicators may be misinterpreted: is a global recession starting or is Uber just losing market share? They are not as representative or free from bias as the painstaking surveys by statistical agencies. Big firms could hoard data, giving them an undue advantage. Private firms such as Facebook, which launched a digital wallet this week, may one day have more insight into consumer spending than the Fed does.

Know thyself

The biggest danger is hubris. With a panopticon of the economy, it will be tempting for politicians and officials to imagine they can see far into the future, or to mould society according to their preferences and favour particular groups. This is the dream of the Chinese Communist Party, which seeks to engage in a form of digital central planning.

In fact no amount of data can reliably predict the future. Unfathomably complex, dynamic economies rely not on Big Brother but on the spontaneous behaviour of millions of independent firms and consumers. Instant economics isn’t about clairvoyance or omniscience. Instead its promise is prosaic but transformative: better, timelier and more rational decision-making. ■

Enter third-wave economics

Oct 23rd 2021

AS PART OF his plan for socialism in the early 1970s, Salvador Allende created Project Cybersyn. The Chilean president’s idea was to offer bureaucrats unprecedented insight into the country’s economy. Managers would feed information from factories and fields into a central database. In an operations room bureaucrats could see if production was rising in the metals sector but falling on farms, or what was happening to wages in mining. They would quickly be able to analyse the impact of a tweak to regulations or production quotas.

Cybersyn never got off the ground. But something curiously similar has emerged in Salina, a small city in Kansas. Salina311, a local paper, has started publishing a “community dashboard” for the area, with rapid-fire data on local retail prices, the number of job vacancies and more—in effect, an electrocardiogram of the economy.

What is true in Salina is true for a growing number of national governments. When the pandemic started last year bureaucrats began studying dashboards of “high-frequency” data, such as daily airport passengers and hour-by-hour credit-card-spending. In recent weeks they have turned to new high-frequency sources, to get a better sense of where labour shortages are worst or to estimate which commodity price is next in line to soar. Economists have seized on these new data sets, producing a research boom (see chart 1). In the process, they are influencing policy as never before.

This fast-paced economics involves three big changes. First, it draws on data that are not only abundant but also directly relevant to real-world problems. When policymakers are trying to understand what lockdowns do to leisure spending they look at live restaurant reservations; when they want to get a handle on supply-chain bottlenecks they look at day-by-day movements of ships. Troves of timely, granular data are to economics what the microscope was to biology, opening a new way of looking at the world.

Second, the economists using the data are keener on influencing public policy. More of them do quick-and-dirty research in response to new policies. Academics have flocked to Twitter to engage in debate.

And, third, this new type of economics involves little theory. Practitioners claim to let the information speak for itself. Raj Chetty, a Harvard professor and one of the pioneers, has suggested that controversies between economists should be little different from disagreements among doctors about whether coffee is bad for you: a matter purely of evidence. All this is causing controversy among dismal scientists, not least because some, such as Mr Chetty, have done better from the shift than others: a few superstars dominate the field.

Their emerging discipline might be called “third wave” economics. The first wave emerged with Adam Smith and the “Wealth of Nations”, published in 1776. Economics mainly involved books or papers written by one person, focusing on some big theoretical question. Smith sought to tear down the monopolistic habits of 18th-century Europe. In the 20th century John Maynard Keynes wanted people to think differently about the government’s role in managing the economic cycle. Milton Friedman aimed to eliminate many of the responsibilities that politicians, following Keynes’s ideas, had arrogated to themselves.

All three men had a big impact on policies—as late as 1850 Smith was quoted 30 times in Parliament—but in a diffuse way. Data were scarce. Even by the 1970s more than half of economics papers focused on theory alone, suggests a study published in 2012 by Daniel Hamermesh, an economist.

That changed with the second wave of economics. By 2011 purely theoretical papers accounted for only 19% of publications. The growth of official statistics gave wonks more data to work with. More powerful computers made it easier to spot patterns and ascribe causality (this year’s Nobel prize was awarded for the practice of identifying cause and effect). The average number of authors per paper rose, as the complexity of the analysis increased (see chart 2). Economists had greater involvement in policy: rich-world governments began using cost-benefit analysis for infrastructure decisions from the 1950s.

Second-wave economics nonetheless remained constrained by data. Most national statistics are published with lags of months or years. “The traditional government statistics weren’t really all that helpful—by the time they came out, the data were stale,” says Michael Faulkender, an assistant treasury secretary in Washington at the start of the pandemic. The quality of official local economic data is mixed, at best; they do a poor job of covering the housing market and consumer spending. National statistics came into being at a time when the average economy looked more industrial, and less service-based, than it does now. The Standard Industrial Classification, introduced in 1937-38 and still in use with updates, divides manufacturing into 24 subsections, but the entire financial industry into just three.

The mists of time

Especially in times of rapid change, policymakers have operated in a fog. “If you look at the data right now…we are not in what would normally be characterised as a recession,” argued Edward Lazear, then chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in May 2008. Five months later, after Lehman Brothers had collapsed, the IMF noted that America was “not necessarily” heading for a deep recession. In fact America had entered a recession in December 2007. In 2007-09 there was no surge in economics publications. Economists’ recommendations for policy were mostly based on judgment, theory and a cursory reading of national statistics.

The gap between official data and what is happening in the real economy can still be glaring. Walk around a Walmart in Kansas and many items, from pet food to bottled water, are in short supply. Yet some national statistics fail to show such problems. Dean Baker of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, using official data, points out that American real inventories, excluding cars and farm products, are barely lower than before the pandemic.

There were hints of an economics third wave before the pandemic. Some economists were finding new, extremely detailed streams of data, such as anonymised tax records and location information from mobile phones. The analysis of these giant data sets requires the creation of what are in effect industrial labs, teams of economists who clean and probe the numbers. Susan Athey, a trailblazer in applying modern computational methods in economics, has 20 or so non-faculty researchers at her Stanford lab (Mr Chetty’s team boasts similar numbers). Of the 20 economists with the most cited new work during the pandemic, three run industrial labs.

More data sprouted from firms. Visa and Square record spending patterns, Apple and Google track movements, and security companies know when people go in and out of buildings. “Computers are in the middle of every economic arrangement, so naturally things are recorded,” says Jon Levin of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan Chase, a bank, is an unlikely hero of the emergence of third-wave economics. In 2015 he helped set up an institute at his bank which tapped into data from its network to analyse questions about consumer finances and small businesses.

The Brexit referendum of June 2016 was the first big event when real-time data were put to the test. The British government and investors needed to get a sense of this unusual shock long before Britain’s official GDP numbers came out. They scraped web pages for telltale signs such as restaurant reservations and the number of supermarkets offering discounts—and concluded, correctly, that though the economy was slowing, it was far from the catastrophe that many forecasters had predicted.

Real-time data might have remained a niche pursuit for longer were it not for the pandemic. Chinese firms have long produced granular high-frequency data on everything from cinema visits to the number of glasses of beer that people are drinking daily. Beer-and-movie statistics are a useful cross-check against sometimes dodgy official figures. China-watchers turned to them in January 2020, when lockdowns began in Hubei province. The numbers showed that the world’s second-largest economy was heading for a slump. And they made it clear to economists elsewhere how useful such data could be.

Vast and fast

In the early days of the pandemic Google started releasing anonymised data on people’s physical movements; this has helped researchers produce a day-by-day measure of the severity of lockdowns (see chart 3). OpenTable, a booking platform, started publishing daily information on restaurant reservations. America’s Census Bureau quickly introduced a weekly survey of households, asking them questions ranging from their employment status to whether they could afford to pay the rent.

In May 2020 Jose Maria Barrero, Nick Bloom and Steven Davis, three economists, began a monthly survey of American business practices and work habits. Working-age Americans are paid to answer questions on how often they plan to visit the office, say, or how they would prefer to greet a work colleague. “People often complete a survey during their lunch break,” says Mr Bloom, of Stanford University. “They sit there with a sandwich, answer some questions, and that pays for their lunch.”

Demand for research to understand a confusing economic situation jumped. The first analysis of America’s $600 weekly boost to unemployment insurance, implemented in March 2020, was published in weeks. The British government knew by October 2020 that a scheme to subsidise restaurant attendance in August 2020 had probably boosted covid infections. Many apparently self-evident things about the pandemic—that the economy collapsed in March 2020, that the poor have suffered more than the rich, or that the shift to working from home is turning out better than expected—only seem obvious because of rapid-fire economic research.

It is harder to quantify the policy impact. Some economists scoff at the notion that their research has influenced politicians’ pandemic response. Many studies using real-time data suggested that the Paycheck Protection Programme, an effort to channel money to American small firms, was doing less good than hoped. Yet small-business lobbyists ensured that politicians did not get rid of it for months. Tyler Cowen, of George Mason University, points out that the most significant contribution of economists during the pandemic involved recommending early pledges to buy vaccines—based on older research, not real-time data.

Still, Mr Faulkender says that the special support for restaurants that was included in America’s stimulus was influenced by a weak recovery in the industry seen in the OpenTable data. Research by Mr Chetty in early 2021 found that stimulus cheques sent in December boosted spending by lower-income households, but not much for richer households. He claims this informed the decision to place stronger income limits on the stimulus cheques sent in March.

Shaping the economic conversation

As for the Federal Reserve, in May 2020 the Dallas and New York regional Feds and James Stock, a Harvard economist, created an activity index using data from SafeGraph, a data provider that tracks mobility using mobile-phone pings. The St Louis Fed used data from Homebase to track employment numbers daily. Both showed shortfalls of economic activity in advance of official data. This led the Fed to communicate its doveish policy stance faster.

Speedy data also helped frame debate. Everyone realised the world was in a deep recession much sooner than they had in 2007-09. In the IMF’s overviews of the global economy in 2009, 40% of the papers cited had been published in 2008-09. In the overview published in October 2020, by contrast, over half the citations were for papers published that year.

The third wave of economics has been better for some practitioners than others. As lockdowns began, many male economists found themselves at home with no teaching responsibilities and more time to do research. Female ones often picked up the slack of child care. A paper in Covid Economics, a rapid-fire journal, finds that female authors accounted for 12% of economics working-paper submissions during the pandemic, compared with 20% before. Economists lucky enough to have researched topics before the pandemic which became hot, from home-working to welfare policy, were suddenly in demand.

There are also deeper shifts in the value placed on different sorts of research. The Economist has examined rankings of economists from IDEAS RePEC, a database of research, and citation data from Google Scholar. We divided economists into three groups: “lone wolves” (who publish with less than one unique co-author per paper on average); “collaborators” (those who tend to work with more than one unique co-author per paper, usually two to four people); and “lab leaders” (researchers who run a large team of dedicated assistants). We then looked at the top ten economists for each as measured by RePEC author rankings for the past ten years.

Collaborators performed far ahead of the other two groups during the pandemic (see chart 4). Lone wolves did worst: working with large data sets benefits from a division of labour. Why collaborators did better than lab leaders is less clear. They may have been more nimble in working with those best suited for the problems at hand; lab leaders are stuck with a fixed group of co-authors and assistants.

The most popular types of research highlight another aspect of the third wave: its usefulness for business. Scott Baker, another economist, and Messrs Bloom and Davis—three of the top four authors during the pandemic compared with the year before—are all “collaborators” and use daily newspaper data to study markets. Their uncertainty index has been used by hedge funds to understand the drivers of asset prices. The research by Messrs Bloom and Davis on working from home has also gained attention from businesses seeking insight on the transition to remote work.

But does it work in theory?

Not everyone likes where the discipline is going. When economists say that their fellows are turning into data scientists, it is not meant as a compliment. A kinder interpretation is that the shift to data-heavy work is correcting a historical imbalance. “The most important problem with macro over the past few decades has been that it has been too theoretical,” says Jón Steinsson of the University of California, Berkeley, in an essay published in July. A better balance with data improves theory. Half of the recent Nobel prize went for the application of new empirical methods to labour economics; the other half was for the statistical theory around such methods.

Some critics question the quality of many real-time sources. High-frequency data are less accurate at estimating levels (for example, the total value of GDP) than they are at estimating changes, and in particular turning-points (such as when growth turns into recession). In a recent review of real-time indicators Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomics, a consultancy, pointed out that OpenTable data tended to exaggerate the rebound in restaurant attendance last year.

Others have worries about the new incentives facing economists. Researchers now race to post a working paper with America’s National Bureau of Economic Research in order to stake their claim to an area of study or to influence policymakers. The downside is that consumers of fast-food academic research often treat it as if it is as rigorous as the slow-cooked sort—papers which comply with the old-fashioned publication process involving endless seminars and peer review. A number of papers using high-frequency data which generated lots of clicks, including one which claimed that a motorcycle rally in South Dakota had caused a spike in covid cases, have since been called into question.

Whatever the concerns, the pandemic has given economists a new lease of life. During the Chilean coup of 1973 members of the armed forces broke into Cybersyn’s operations room and smashed up the slides of graphs—not only because it was Allende’s creation, but because the idea of an electrocardiogram of the economy just seemed a bit weird. Third-wave economics is still unusual, but ever less odd. ■

Soon, satellites will be able to watch you everywhere all the time (MIT Technology Review)

Can privacy survive?

Christopher Beam

June 26, 2019

In 2013, police in Grants Pass, Oregon, got a tip that a man named Curtis W. Croft had been illegally growing marijuana in his backyard. So they checked Google Earth. Indeed, the four-month-old satellite image showed neat rows of plants growing on Croft’s property. The cops raided his place and seized 94 plants.

In 2018, Brazilian police in the state of Amapá used real-time satellite imagery to detect a spot where trees had been ripped out of the ground. When they showed up, they discovered that the site was being used to illegally produce charcoal, and arrested eight people in connection with the scheme.

Chinese government officials have denied or downplayed the existence of Uighur reeducation camps in Xinjiang province, portraying them as “vocational schools.” But human rights activists have used satellite imagery to show that many of the “schools” are surrounded by watchtowers and razor wire.

Every year, commercially available satellite images are becoming sharper and taken more frequently. In 2008, there were 150 Earth observation satellites in orbit; by now there are 768. Satellite companies don’t offer 24-hour real-time surveillance, but if the hype is to be believed, they’re getting close. Privacy advocates warn that innovation in satellite imagery is outpacing the US government’s (to say nothing of the rest of the world’s) ability to regulate the technology. Unless we impose stricter limits now, they say, one day everyone from ad companies to suspicious spouses to terrorist organizations will have access to tools previously reserved for government spy agencies. Which would mean that at any given moment, anyone could be watching anyone else.

The images keep getting clearer

Commercial satellite imagery is currently in a sweet spot: powerful enough to see a car, but not enough to tell the make and model; collected frequently enough for a farmer to keep tabs on crops’ health, but not so often that people could track the comings and goings of a neighbor. This anonymity is deliberate. US federal regulations limit images taken by commercial satellites to a resolution of 25 centimeters, or about the length of a man’s shoe. (Military spy satellites can capture images far more granular, although just how much more is classified.)

Ever since 2014, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) relaxed the limit from 50 to 25 cm, that resolution has been fine enough to satisfy most customers. Investors can predict oil supply from the shadows cast inside oil storage tanks. Farmers can monitor flooding to protect their crops. Human rights organizations have tracked the flows of refugees from Myanmar and Syria.

But satellite imagery is improving in a way that investors and businesses will inevitably want to exploit. The imaging company Planet Labs currently maintains 140 satellites, enough to pass over every place on Earth once a day. Maxar, formerly DigitalGlobe, which launched the first commercial Earth observation satellite in 1997, is building a constellation that will be able to revisit spots 15 times a day. BlackSky Global promises to revisit most major cities up to 70 times a day. That might not be enough to track an individual’s every move, but it would show what times of day someone’s car is typically in the driveway, for instance.

Some companies are even offering live video from space. As early as 2014, a Silicon Valley startup called SkyBox (later renamed Terra Bella and purchased by Google and then Planet) began touting HD video clips up to 90 seconds long. And a company called EarthNow says it will offer “continuous real-time” monitoring “with a delay as short as about one second,” though some think it is overstating its abilities. Everyone is trying to get closer to a “living map,” says Charlie Loyd of Mapbox, which creates custom maps for companies like Snapchat and the Weather Channel. But it won’t arrive tomorrow, or the next day: “We’re an extremely long way from high-res, full-time video of the Earth.”

Some of the most radical developments in Earth observation involve not traditional photography but rather radar sensing and hyperspectral images, which capture electromagnetic wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. Clouds can hide the ground in visible light, but satellites can penetrate them using synthetic aperture radar, which emits a signal that bounces off the sensed object and back to the satellite. It can determine the height of an object down to a millimeter. NASA has used synthetic aperture radar since the 1970s, but the fact that the US approved it for commercial use only last year is testament to its power—and political sensitivity. (In 1978, military officials supposedly blocked the release of radar satellite images that revealed the location of American nuclear submarines.)

While GPS data from cell phones is a legitimate privacy threat, you can at least decide to leave your phone at home. It’s harder to hide from a satellite camera.

Meanwhile, farmers can use hyperspectral sensing to tell where a crop is in its growth cycle, and geologists can use it to detect the texture of rock that might be favorable to excavation. But it could also be used, whether by military agencies or terrorists, to identify underground bunkers or nuclear materials. 

The resolution of commercially available imagery, too, is likely to improve further. NOAA’s 25-centimeter cap will come under pressure as competition from international satellite companies increases. And even if it doesn’t, there’s nothing to stop, say, a Chinese company from capturing and selling 10 cm images to American customers. “Other companies internationally are going to start providing higher-­resolution imagery than we legally allow,” says Therese Jones, senior director of policy for the Satellite Industry Association. “Our companies would want to push the limit down as far as they possibly could.”

What will make the imagery even more powerful is the ability to process it in large quantities. Analytics companies like Orbital Insight and SpaceKnow feed visual data into algorithms designed to let anyone with an internet connection understand the pictures en masse. Investors use this analysis to, for example, estimate the true GDP of China’s Guangdong province on the basis of the light it emits at night. But burglars could also scan a city to determine which families are out of town most often and for how long.

Satellite and analytics companies say they’re careful to anonymize their data, scrubbing it of identifying characteristics. But even if satellites aren’t recognizing faces, those images combined with other data streams—GPS, security cameras, social-media posts—could pose a threat to privacy. “People’s movements, what kinds of shops do you go to, where do your kids go to school, what kind of religious institutions do you visit, what are your social patterns,” says Peter Martinez, of the Secure World Foundation. “All of these kinds of questions could in principle be interrogated, should someone be interested.”

Like all tools, satellite imagery is subject to misuse. Its apparent objectivity can lead to false conclusions, as when the George W. Bush administration used it to make the case that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling chemical weapons in Iraq. Attempts to protect privacy can also backfire: in 2018, a Russian mapping firm blurred out the sites of sensitive military operations in Turkey and Israel—inadvertently revealing their existence, and prompting web users to locate the sites on other open-source maps.

Capturing satellite imagery with good intentions can have unintended consequences too. In 2012, as conflict raged on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, the Harvard-based Satellite Sentinel Project released an image that showed a construction crew building a tank-capable road leading toward an area occupied by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. The idea was to warn citizens about the approaching tanks so they could evacuate. But the SPLA saw the images too, and within 36 hours it attacked the road crew (which turned out to consist of Chinese civilians hired by the Sudanese government), killed some of them, and kidnapped the rest. As an activist, one’s instinct is often to release more information, says Nathaniel Raymond, a human rights expert who led the Sentinel project. But he’s learned that you have to take into account who else might be watching.

It’s expensive to watch you all the time

One thing that might save us from celestial scrutiny is the price. Some satellite entrepreneurs argue that there isn’t enough demand to pay for a constellation of satellites capable of round-the-clock monitoring at resolutions below 25 cm. “It becomes a question of economics,” says Walter Scott, founder of DigitalGlobe, now Maxar. While some companies are launching relatively cheap “nanosatellites” the size of toasters—the 120 Dove satellites launched by Planet, for example, are “orders of magnitude” cheaper than traditional satellites, according to a spokesperson—there’s a limit to how small they can get and still capture hyper-detailed images. “It is a fundamental fact of physics that aperture size determines the limit on the resolution you can get,” says Scott. “At a given altitude, you need a certain size telescope.” That is, in Maxar’s case, an aperture of about a meter across, mounted on a satellite the size of a small school bus. (While there are ways around this limit—interferometry, for example, uses multiple mirrors to simulate a much larger mirror—they’re complex and pricey.) Bigger satellites mean costlier launches, so companies would need a financial incentive to collect such granular data.

That said, there’s already demand for imagery with sub–25 cm resolution—and a supply of it. For example, some insurance underwriters need that level of detail to spot trees overhanging a roof, or to distinguish a skylight from a solar panel, and they can get it from airplanes and drones. But if the cost of satellite images came down far enough, insurance companies would presumably switch over.

Of course, drones can already collect better images than satellites ever will. But drones are limited in where they can go. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration forbids flying commercial drones over groups of people, and you have to register a drone that weighs more than half a pound (227 grams) or so. There are no such restrictions in space. The Outer Space Treaty, signed in 1967 by the US, the Soviet Union, and dozens of UN member states, gives all states free access to space, and subsequent agreements on remote sensing have enshrined the principle of “open skies.” During the Cold War this made sense, as it allowed superpowers to monitor other countries to verify that they were sticking to arms agreements. But the treaty didn’t anticipate that it would one day be possible for anyone to get detailed images of almost any location.

And then there are the tracking devices we carry around in our pockets, a.k.a. smartphones. But while the GPS data from cell  phones is a legitimate privacy threat, you can at least decide to leave your phone at home. It’s harder to hide from a satellite camera. “There’s some element of ground truth—no pun intended—that satellites have that maybe your cell phone or digital record or what happens on Twitter [doesn’t],” says Abraham Thomas, chief data officer at the analytics company Quandl. “The data itself tends to be innately more accurate.”

The future of human freedom

American privacy laws are vague when it comes to satellites. Courts have generally allowed aerial surveillance, though in 2015 the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that an “aerial search” by police without a warrant was unconstitutional. Cases often come down to whether an act of surveillance violates someone’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.” A picture taken on a public sidewalk: fair game. A photo shot by a drone through someone’s bedroom window: probably not. A satellite orbiting hundreds of miles up, capturing video of a car pulling into the driveway? Unclear.

That doesn’t mean the US government is powerless. It has no jurisdiction over Chinese or Russian satellites, but it can regulate how American customers use foreign imagery. If US companies are profiting from it in a way that violates the privacy of US citizens, the government could step in.

Raymond argues that protecting ourselves will mean rethinking privacy itself. Current privacy laws, he says, focus on threats to the rights of individuals. But those protections “are anachronistic in the face of AI, geospatial technologies, and mobile technologies, which not only use group data, they run on group data as gas in the tank,” Raymond says. Regulating these technologies will mean conceiving of privacy as applying not just to individuals, but to groups as well. “You can be entirely ethical about personally identifiable information and still kill people,” he says.

Until we can all agree on data privacy norms, Raymond says, it will be hard to create lasting rules around satellite imagery. “We’re all trying to figure this out,” he says. “It’s not like anything’s riding on it except the future of human freedom.”

Christopher Beam is a writer based in Los Angeles.

The space issue

This story was part of our July 2019 issue

Half of Fox News Viewers Believe Bill Gates Wants to Use Virus Vaccines to Track You, New Poll Says (Rolling Stone)

May 22, 2020 5:00PM ET

Misinformation is taking a dangerous hold on Fox News viewers

By Peter Wade

Fox News Viewers Believe Bill Gates Wants Track You Through Vaccines
Two women hold anti-vaccination signs during a protest against Governor Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order outside the State Capitol in Olympia, Washington on May 9, 2020.

Misinformation is taking a dangerous hold on Fox News viewers. According to a new poll, half of all Americans who name Fox News as their primary news source believe the debunked conspiracy theory claiming Bill Gates is looking to use a coronavirus vaccine to inject a microchip into people and track the world’s population.

The Yahoo News/YouGov poll, released on Friday, found that 44 percent of Republicans also buy into the unfounded claim, while just 19 percent of Democrats believe the lie about the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist.

According to Yahoo’s report on the poll, neither Fox News nor President Trump has promoted the false Gates conspiracy. But sowing seeds of distrust of mainstream media and the spread of misinformation is a hallmark of the network and the current president. Last month, Fox primetime host Laura Ingraham shared a tweet where she expressed agreement with a user who wrote about the debunked conspiracy theory.

“Digitally tracking Americans’ every move has been a dream of the globalists for years. This health crisis is the perfect vehicle for them to push this,” Ingraham wrote.

The poll also found that just 15 percent of MSNBC viewers believe the untrue conspiracy theory which, according to the fact-checking publication Snopes, began with the anti-vaccine movement. They chose to target Gates specifically because of his decade-long advocacy for vaccines.

According to an April report in the New York Times that looked into the right-wing targeting of Gates, media analysis company Zignal Labs found that “misinformation about Gates is now the most widespread of all coronavirus falsehoods” that the company has tracked.

This debunked conspiracy theory could be especially menacing if it deters any portion of the population from getting vaccinated, if and when one becomes available, which would then make it much tougher to rid the world of the virus.

In another poll released on Friday by Reuters/Ipsos showed increasing mistrust in the president due to his consistent habit of sharing misinformation. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said they would be less willing to take a vaccine if it were endorsed by the president.

The picture these polls paint is both sad and obviously dangerous for all of us, especially with the current pandemic. Unfortunately, our country’s lack of trustworthy leadership means that more and more people are susceptible to bad and untrue advice that is rampant on random Reddit forums, Facebook posts and, yes, even TikTok — where conspiracy theories are paired with viral dances.

O coronavírus de hoje e o mundo de amanhã, segundo o filósofo Byung-Chul Han (El País)

Países asiáticos estão lidando melhor com essa crise do que o Ocidente. Enquanto lá se trabalha com dados e máscaras, aqui se chega tarde e fecham fronteiras

Byung-Chul Han – 22 mar 2020 – 20:01 BRT

Um oficial de polícia vigia diante de um cartaz dia 23 de janeiro em Pequim.
Um oficial de polícia vigia diante de um cartaz dia 23 de janeiro em Pequim.Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

O coronavírus está colocando nosso sistema à prova. Ao que parece a Ásia controla melhor a epidemia do que a Europa. Em Hong Kong, Taiwan e Singapura há poucos infectados. Em Taiwan foram registrados 108 casos e 193 em Hong Kong. Na Alemanha, pelo contrário, após um período muito mais breve já existem 19.000 casos confirmados, e na Espanha 19.980 (dados de 20 de março). A Coreia do Sul já superou a pior fase, da mesma forma que o Japão. Até a China, o país de origem da pandemia, já está com ela bem controlada. Mas Taiwan e a Coreia não decretaram a proibição de sair de casa e as lojas e restaurantes não fecharam. Enquanto isso começou um êxodo de asiáticos que saem da Europa. Chineses e coreanos querem regressar aos seus países, porque lá se sentem mais seguros. Os preços dos voos multiplicaram. Já quase não é possível conseguir passagens aéreas para a China e a Coreia.

A Europa está fracassando. Os números de infectados aumentam exponencialmente. Parece que a Europa não pode controlar a pandemia. Na Itália morrem diariamente centenas de pessoas. Retiram os respiradores dos pacientes idosos para ajudar os jovens. Mas também vale observar ações inúteis. Os fechamentos de fronteiras são evidentemente uma expressão desesperada de soberania. Nós nos sentimos de volta à época da soberania. O soberano é quem decide sobre o estado de exceção. É o soberano que fecha fronteiras. Mas isso é uma vã tentativa de soberania que não serve para nada. Seria muito mais útil cooperar intensamente dentro da Eurozona do que fechar fronteiras alucinadamente. Ao mesmo tempo a Europa também decretou a proibição da entrada a estrangeiros: um ato totalmente absurdo levando em consideração o fato de que a Europa é justamente o local ao qual ninguém quer ir. No máximo, seria mais sensato decretar a proibição de saídas de europeus, para proteger o mundo da Europa. Depois de tudo, a Europa é nesse momento o epicentro da pandemia.

As vantagens da Ásia

Em comparação com a Europa, quais vantagens o sistema da Ásia oferece que são eficientes para combater a pandemia? Estados asiáticos como o Japão, Coreia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan e Singapura têm uma mentalidade autoritária, que vem de sua tradição cultural (confucionismo). As pessoas são menos relutantes e mais obedientes do que na Europa. Também confiam mais no Estado. E não somente na China, como também na Europa e no Japão a vida cotidiana está organizada muito mais rigidamente do que na Europa. Principalmente para enfrentar o vírus os asiáticos apostam fortemente na vigilância digital. Suspeitam que o big data pode ter um enorme potencial para se defender da pandemia. Poderíamos dizer que na Ásia as epidemias não são combatidas somente pelos virologistas e epidemiologistas, e sim principalmente pelos especialistas em informática e macrodados. Uma mudança de paradigma da qual a Europa ainda não se inteirou. Os apologistas da vigilância digital proclamariam que o big data salva vidas humanas.

A consciência crítica diante da vigilância digital é praticamente inexistente na Ásia. Já quase não se fala de proteção de dados, incluindo Estados liberais como o Japão e a Coreia. Ninguém se irrita pelo frenesi das autoridades em recopilar dados. Enquanto isso a China introduziu um sistema de crédito social inimaginável aos europeus, que permitem uma valorização e avaliação exaustiva das pessoas. Cada um deve ser avaliado em consequência de sua conduta social. Na China não há nenhum momento da vida cotidiana que não esteja submetido à observação. Cada clique, cada compra, cada contato, cada atividade nas redes sociais são controlados. Quem atravessa no sinal vermelho, quem tem contato com críticos do regime e quem coloca comentários críticos nas redes sociais perde pontos. A vida, então, pode chegar a se tornar muito perigosa. Pelo contrário, quem compra pela Internet alimentos saudáveis e lê jornais que apoiam o regime ganha pontos. Quem tem pontuação suficiente obtém um visto de viagem e créditos baratos. Pelo contrário, quem cai abaixo de um determinado número de pontos pode perder seu trabalho. Na China essa vigilância social é possível porque ocorre uma irrestrita troca de dados entre os fornecedores da Internet e de telefonia celular e as autoridades. Praticamente não existe a proteção de dados. No vocabulário dos chineses não há o termo “esfera privada”.

Na China existem 200 milhões de câmeras de vigilância, muitas delas com uma técnica muito eficiente de reconhecimento facial. Captam até mesmo as pintas no rosto. Não é possível escapar da câmera de vigilância. Essas câmeras dotadas de inteligência artificial podem observar e avaliar qualquer um nos espaços públicos, nas lojas, nas ruas, nas estações e nos aeroportos.

Toda a infraestrutura para a vigilância digital se mostrou agora ser extremamente eficaz para conter a epidemia. Quando alguém sai da estação de Pequim é captado automaticamente por uma câmera que mede sua temperatura corporal. Se a temperatura é preocupante todas as pessoas que estavam sentadas no mesmo vagão recebem uma notificação em seus celulares. Não é por acaso que o sistema sabe quem estava sentado em qual local no trem. As redes sociais contam que estão usando até drones para controlar as quarentenas. Se alguém rompe clandestinamente a quarentena um drone se dirige voando em sua direção e ordena que regresse à sua casa. Talvez até lhe dê uma multa e a deixe cair voando, quem sabe. Uma situação que para os europeus seria distópica, mas que, pelo visto, não tem resistência na China.

Na China e em outros Estados asiáticos como a Coreia do Sul, Hong Kong, Singapura, Taiwan e Japão não existe uma consciência crítica diante da vigilância digital e o big data. A digitalização os embriaga diretamente. Isso obedece também a um motivo cultural. Na Ásia impera o coletivismo. Não há um individualismo acentuado. O individualismo não é a mesma coisa que o egoísmo, que evidentemente também está muito propagado na Ásia.

Ao que parece o big data é mais eficaz para combater o vírus do que os absurdos fechamentos de fronteiras que estão sendo feitos nesses momentos na Europa. Graças à proteção de dados, entretanto, não é possível na Europa um combate digital do vírus comparável ao asiático. Os fornecedores chineses de telefonia celular e de Internet compartilham os dados sensíveis de seus clientes com os serviços de segurança e com os ministérios de saúde. O Estado sabe, portanto, onde estou, com quem me encontro, o que faço, o que procuro, em que penso, o que como, o que compro, aonde me dirijo. É possível que no futuro o Estado controle também a temperatura corporal, o peso, o nível de açúcar no sangue etc. Uma biopolítica digital que acompanha a psicopolítica digital que controla ativamente as pessoas.

É possível que no futuro o Estado controle também a temperatura corporal, o peso, o nível de açúcar no sangue

Em Wuhan se formaram milhares de equipes de pesquisa digitais que procuram possíveis infectados baseando-se somente em dados técnicos. Tendo como base, unicamente, análises de macrodados averiguam os que são potenciais infectados, os que precisam continuar sendo observados e eventualmente isolados em quarentena. O futuro também está na digitalização no que se refere à pandemia. Pela epidemia talvez devêssemos redefinir até mesmo a soberania. É soberano quem dispõe de dados. Quando a Europa proclama o estado de alarme e fecha fronteiras continua aferrada a velhos modelos de soberania.

Não somente na China, como também em outros países asiáticos a vigilância digital é profundamente utilizada para conter a epidemia. Em Taiwan o Estado envia simultaneamente a todos um SMS para localizar as pessoas que tiveram contato com infectados e para informar sobre os lugares e edifícios em que existiram pessoas contaminadas. Já em uma fase muito inicial, Taiwan utilizou uma conexão de diversos dados para localizar possíveis infectados em função das viagens que fizeram. Na Coreia quem se aproxima de um edifício em que um infectado esteve recebe através do “Corona-app” um sinal de alarme. Todos os lugares em que infectados estiveram estão registrados no aplicativo. Não são levadas muito em consideração a proteção de dados e a esfera privada. Em todos os edifícios da Coreia foram instaladas câmeras de vigilância em cada andar, em cada escritório e em cada loja. É praticamente impossível se mover em espaços públicos sem ser filmado por uma câmera de vídeo. Com os dados do telefone celular e do material filmado por vídeo é possível criar o perfil de movimento completo de um infectado. São publicados os movimentos de todos os infectados. Casos amorosos secretos podem ser revelados. Nos escritórios do Ministério da Saúde coreano existem pessoas chamadas “tracker” que dia e noite não fazem outra coisa a não ser olhar o material filmado por vídeo para completar o perfil do movimento dos infectados e localizar as pessoas que tiveram contato com eles.

Chineses, todos de máscara, fazem fila no ponto de ônibus em Pequim, em 20 de março.
Chineses, todos de máscara, fazem fila no ponto de ônibus em Pequim, em 20 de março.Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

Uma diferença chamativa entre a Ásia e a Europa são principalmente as máscaras protetoras. Na Coreia quase não existe quem ande por aí sem máscaras respiratórias especiais capazes de filtrar o ar de vírus. Não são as habituais máscaras cirúrgicas, e sim máscaras protetoras especiais com filtros, que também são utilizadas pelos médicos que tratam os infectados. Durante as últimas semanas, o tema prioritário na Coreia era o fornecimento de máscaras à população. Diante das farmácias enormes filas se formaram. Os políticos eram avaliados em função da rapidez com que eram fornecidas a toda a população. Foram construídas a toda pressa novas máquinas para sua fabricação. Por enquanto parece que o fornecimento funciona bem. Há até mesmo um aplicativo que informa em qual farmácia próxima ainda se pode conseguir máscaras. Acho que as máscaras protetoras fornecidas na Ásia a toda a população contribuíram decisivamente para conter a epidemia.

Os coreanos usam máscaras protetoras antivírus até mesmo nos locais de trabalho. Até os políticos fazem suas aparições públicas somente com máscaras protetoras. O presidente coreano também a usa para dar o exemplo, incluindo em suas entrevistas coletivas. Na Coreia quem não a usa é repreendido. Na Europa, pelo contrário, frequentemente se diz que não servem para muita coisa, o que é um absurdo. Por que então os médicos usam as máscaras protetoras? Mas é preciso trocar de máscara frequentemente, porque quando umedecem perdem sua função filtradora. Os coreanos, entretanto, já desenvolveram uma “máscara ao coronavírus” feita de nanofiltros que podem ser lavados. O que se diz é que podem proteger as pessoas do vírus durante um mês. Na verdade, é uma solução muito boa enquanto não existem vacinas e medicamentos.

Está surgindo uma sociedade de duas classes. Quem tem carro próprio se expõe a menos riscos

Na Europa, pelo contrário, até mesmo os médicos precisam viajar à Rússia para consegui-las. Macron mandou confiscar máscaras para distribui-las entre os funcionários da área de saúde. Mas o que acabaram recebendo foram máscaras normais sem filtro com a indicação de que bastariam para proteger do coronavírus, o que é uma mentira. A Europa está fracassando. De que adianta fechar lojas e restaurantes se as pessoas continuam se aglomerando no metrô e no ônibus durante as horas de pico? Como guardar a distância necessária assim? Até nos supermercados é quase impossível. Em uma situação como essa, as máscaras protetoras realmente salvariam vidas humanas. Está surgindo uma sociedade de duas classes. Quem tem carro próprio se expõe a menos riscos. As máscaras normais também seriam de muita utilidade se os infectados as usassem, porque dessa maneira não propagariam o vírus.

Nos países europeus quase ninguém usa máscara. Há alguns que as usam, mas são asiáticos. Meus conterrâneos residentes na Europa se queixam de que são olhados com estranheza quando as usam. Por trás disso há uma diferença cultural. Na Europa impera um individualismo que traz atrelado o costume de andar com o rosto descoberto. Os únicos que estão mascarados são os criminosos. Mas agora, vendo imagens da Coreia, me acostumei tanto a ver pessoas mascaradas que o rosto descoberto de meus concidadãos europeus me parece quase obsceno. Eu também gostaria de usar máscara protetora, mas aqui já não existem.

No passado, a fabricação de máscara, da mesma forma que tantos outros produtos, foi externalizada à China. Por isso agora não se conseguem máscaras na Europa. Os Estados asiáticos estão tentando prover toda a população com máscaras protetoras. Na China, quando também começaram a escassear, fábricas chegaram a ser reequipadas para produzir máscaras. Na Europa nem mesmo os funcionários da área de saúde as conseguem. Enquanto as pessoas continuarem se aglomerando nos ônibus e metrôs para ir ao trabalho sem máscaras protetoras, a proibição de sair de casa logicamente não adiantará muito. Como é possível guardar a distância necessária nos ônibus e no metrô nos horários de pico? E uma lição que deveríamos tirar da pandemia deveria ser a conveniência de voltar a trazer à Europa a produção de determinados produtos, como máscaras protetoras, remédios e produtos farmacêuticos.

O presidente da Coreia do Su, terceiro na imagem, em 25 de fevereiro.
O presidente da Coreia do Su, terceiro na imagem, em 25 de fevereiro.South Korean Presidential Blue House/Getty Images / South Korean Presidential Blue H

Apesar de todo o risco, que não deve ser minimizado, o pânico desatado pela pandemia de coronavírus é desproporcional. Nem mesmo a “gripe espanhola”, que foi muito mais letal, teve efeitos tão devastadores sobre a economia. A que isso se deve na realidade? Por que o mundo reage com um pânico tão desmesurado a um vírus? Emmanuel Macron fala até de guerra e do inimigo invisível que precisamos derrotar. Estamos diante de um retorno do inimigo? A gripe espanhola se desencadeou em plena Primeira Guerra Mundial. Naquele momento todo o mundo estava cercado de inimigos. Ninguém teria associado a epidemia com uma guerra e um inimigo. Mas hoje vivemos em uma sociedade totalmente diferente.

Na verdade, vivemos durante muito tempo sem inimigos. A Guerra Fria terminou há muito tempo. Ultimamente até o terrorismo islâmico parecia ter se deslocado a áreas distantes. Há exatamente dez anos afirmei em meu ensaio Sociedade do Cansaço a tese de que vivemos em uma época em que o paradigma imunológico perdeu sua vigência, baseada na negatividade do inimigo. Como nos tempos da Guerra Fria, a sociedade organizada imunologicamente se caracteriza por viver cercada de fronteiras e de cercas, que impedem a circulação acelerada de mercadorias e de capital. A globalização suprime todos esses limites imunitários para dar caminho livre ao capital. Até mesmo a promiscuidade e a permissividade generalizadas, que hoje se propagam por todos os âmbitos vitais, eliminam a negatividade do desconhecido e do inimigo. Os perigos não espreitam hoje da negatividade do inimigo, e sim do excesso de positividade, que se expressa como excesso de rendimento, excesso de produção e excesso de comunicação. A negatividade do inimigo não tem lugar em nossa sociedade ilimitadamente permissiva. A repressão aos cuidados de outros abre espaço à depressão, a exploração por outros abre espaço à autoexploração voluntária e à auto-otimização. Na sociedade do rendimento se guerreia sobretudo contra si mesmo.

Limites imunológicos e fechamento de fronteiras

Pois bem, em meio a essa sociedade tão enfraquecida imunologicamente pelo capitalismo global o vírus irrompe de supetão. Em pânico, voltamos a erguer limites imunológicos e fechar fronteiras. O inimigo voltou. Já não guerreamos contra nós mesmos. E sim contra o inimigo invisível que vem de fora. O pânico desmedido causado pelo vírus é uma reação imunitária social, e até global, ao novo inimigo. A reação imunitária é tão violenta porque vivemos durante muito tempo em uma sociedade sem inimigos, em uma sociedade da positividade, e agora o vírus é visto como um terror permanente.

Mas há outro motivo para o tremendo pânico. Novamente tem a ver com a digitalização. A digitalização elimina a realidade, a realidade é experimentada graças à resistência que oferece, e que também pode ser dolorosa. A digitalização, toda a cultura do “like”, suprime a negatividade da resistência. E na época pós-fática das fake news e dos deepfakes surge uma apatia à realidade. Dessa forma, aqui é um vírus real e não um vírus de computador, e que causa uma comoção. A realidade, a resistência, volta a se fazer notar no formato de um vírus inimigo. A violenta e exagerada reação de pânico ao vírus se explica em função dessa comoção pela realidade.

Espero que após a comoção causada por esse vírus não chegue à Europa um regime policial digital como o chinês.

A reação de pânico dos mercados financeiros à epidemia é, além disso, a expressão daquele pânico que já é inerente a eles. As convulsões extremas na economia mundial fazem com que essa seja muito vulnerável. Apesar da curva constantemente crescente do índice das Bolsas, a arriscada política monetária dos bancos emissores gerou nos últimos anos um pânico reprimido que estava aguardando a explosão. Provavelmente o vírus não é mais do que a gota que transbordou o copo. O que se reflete no pânico do mercado financeiro não é tanto o medo ao vírus quanto o medo a si mesmo. O crash poderia ter ocorrido também sem o vírus. Talvez o vírus seja somente o prelúdio de um crash muito maior.

Žižek afirma que o vírus deu um golpe mortal no capitalismo, e evoca um comunismo obscuro. Acredita até mesmo que o vírus poderia derrubar o regime chinês. Žižek se engana. Nada disso acontecerá. A China poderá agora vender seu Estado policial digital como um modelo de sucesso contra a pandemia. A China exibirá a superioridade de seu sistema ainda mais orgulhosamente. E após a pandemia, o capitalismo continuará com ainda mais pujança. E os turistas continuarão pisoteando o planeta. O vírus não pode substituir a razão. É possível que chegue até ao Ocidente o Estado policial digital ao estilo chinês. Com já disse Naomi Klein, a comoção é um momento propício que permite estabelecer um novo sistema de Governo. Também a instauração do neoliberalismo veio precedida frequentemente de crises que causaram comoções. É o que aconteceu na Coreia e na Grécia. Espero que após a comoção causada por esse vírus não chegue à Europa um regime policial digital como o chinês. Se isso ocorrer, como teme Giorgio Agamben, o estado de exceção passaria a ser a situação normal. O vírus, então, teria conseguido o que nem mesmo o terrorismo islâmico conseguiu totalmente.

O vírus não vencerá o capitalismo. A revolução viral não chegará a ocorrer. Nenhum vírus é capaz de fazer a revolução. O vírus nos isola e individualiza. Não gera nenhum sentimento coletivo forte. De alguma maneira, cada um se preocupa somente por sua própria sobrevivência. A solidariedade que consiste em guardar distâncias mútuas não é uma solidariedade que permite sonhar com uma sociedade diferente, mais pacífica, mais justa. Não podemos deixar a revolução nas mãos do vírus. Precisamos acreditar que após o vírus virá uma revolução humana. Somos NÓS, PESSOAS dotadas de RAZÃO, que precisamos repensar e restringir radicalmente o capitalismo destrutivo, e nossa ilimitada e destrutiva mobilidade, para nos salvar, para salvar o clima e nosso belo planeta.

Byung-Chul Han é um filósofo e ensaísta sul-coreano que dá aulas na Universidade de Artes de Berlim. Autor, entre outras obras, de ‘Sociedade do Cansaço’, publicou há um ano ‘Loa a la tierra’, na editora Herder.

Texto original

Argentine football club Tigre launches implantable microchip for die-hard fans (AFP)

Abril 26, 2016 6:59pm

Tigres players hugging after a goal

PHOTO: Tigres fans won’t need hard copy tickets or to enter their stadium with the implanted microchip. (Reuters: Enrique Marcarian)

For football lovers so passionate that joining a fan club just isn’t enough, Argentine side Tigre has launched the “Passion Ticket”: a microchip that die-hards can have implanted in their skin.

In football-mad Argentina, fans are known for belting out an almost amorous chant to their favourite clubs: “I carry you inside me!”

First-division side Tigre said it had decided to take that to the next level and is offering fans implantable microchips that will open the stadium turnstiles on match days, no ticket or ID required.

“Carrying the club inside you won’t just be a metaphor,” the club wrote on its Twitter account.

Tigre secretary general Ezequiel Rocino kicked things off by getting one of the microchips implanted in his arm, under an already existing tattoo in the blue and red of the club.

The chips are similar to the ones dog and cat owners can have implanted in their pets in case they get lost.

Rocino showed off the technology for journalists, placing his arm near a scanner to open the turnstile to the club’s stadium 30 kilometres north of the capital, Buenos Aires.

“The scanner will read the data on the implanted chip, and if the club member is up-to-date on his payments, will immediately open the security turnstile,” the club said.

Rocino said getting a chip would be completely voluntary.

“We’re not doing anything invasive, just accelerating access. There’s no GPS tracker, just the member’s data,” he said.