The Defender’s Big Brother NewsWatch brings you the latest headlines related to governments’ abuse of power, including attacks on democracy, civil liberties and use of mass surveillance.
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The ACLU, Prior to COVID, Denounced Mandates and Coercive Measures to Fight Pandemics
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) surprised even many of its harshest critics this week when it strongly defended coercive programs and other mandates from the state in the name of fighting COVID.
“Far from compromising them, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties,” its Twitter account announced, adding that “vaccine requirements also safeguard those whose work involves regular exposure to the public.”
If you were surprised to see the ACLU heralding the civil liberties imperatives of “vaccine mandates” and “vaccine requirements” — whereby the government coerces adults to inject medicine into their own bodies that they do not want — the New York Times op-ed which the group promoted, written by two of its senior lawyers, was even more extreme.
Detroit Hospital System Employees File Lawsuit Over COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Around 50 health care employees are suing a Detroit hospital system over its requirement for all workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, arguing that the mandate unconstitutionally infringes on a person’s bodily autonomy.
The complaint, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, said that the vaccine mandate from the Henry Ford Health System, which is scheduled to officially take effect Friday, violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection of “personal autonomy and bodily integrity.”
Apple Watch To Introduce More Extensive Biometric Health Data-Tracking
Apple is currently working on new biometric features for the Apple Watch, including a tool for blood pressure measurement and a thermometer to help with fertility planning, The Wall Street Journal writes.
The Apple Watch is already capable of measuring heartbeats to scan for health conditions, and in 2018 was officially classed as a medical device. While this can be insightful information for users, measuring heartbeats is also used as a means of biometric user identification.
Last year for example, NASA began commercially licensing a new heartbeat biometric patent to enable developers and solutions integrators to offer the technology for applications like device or bank account access.
Get Vaccinated or Else: Colleges Roll Out New Punishments for Holdouts
After months of coaxing students with thousands of dollars in prizes — everything from gift cards to sports tickets and free parking — to get shots, colleges are starting to punish the unvaccinated.
At the beginning of the summer, institutions started to wave the prospect of scholarships, laptops, game consoles and more to students who got a COVID-19 shot.
Now, as thousands of young people move back to campus, hundreds of schools are mandating vaccines and penalizing students who resist without a medical or religious reason.
Rutgers Freezes Accounts of Several Non-Vaccinated Students
According to Rutgers University, more than 98 percent of undergrads have complied with its mandate that students upload their coronavirus vaccine card in order to return to dorms and classes this fall. But the few students who chose not to get the vaccine are now finding themselves locked out of fall classes, even classes they had planned to take online only.
Adriana Pinto, 22, is one of those students. Pinto is represented by Children’s Health Defense, the anti-vaccine group led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. that is already suing Rutgers over its vaccine mandate, and Julio Gomez, the Scotch Plains lawyer who filed the lawsuit.
According to Gomez, Pinto decided not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She only has one class left to graduate, Quantitative Methods for her psychology degree, which was offered to students either in person or over Zoom this fall.
Arizona Attorney General: Vaccine Mandate for Tucson City Employees Is Illegal
In a news release Tuesday, Brnovich’s office announced that the city of Tucson violated a state law approved this summer prohibiting local governments from implementing vaccine mandates for their employees.
Tucson’s new legislation requires employees to be vaccinated or face a five-day suspension without pay, according to The Associated Press.
Why Apple’s iCloud+ Provides a Future Unlocking for Authoritarian Government Data Surveillance
Earlier this year, Apple announced a new feature to roll out on certain devices in the U.S. that will automatically scan personal devices in a bid to tackle child abuse. NeuralHash technology is a perceptual hashing function creating fingerprints in a different way to traditional cryptographic hashing …
But a backlash has circulated online with notable tech leaders raising concerns about what this means for individuals’ privacy and consumer rights, led by Whatsapp CEO Will Cathcart. He described it as a “step back for people’s privacy all over the world.”
Australia to Have Vaccine Passport System Ready Within Weeks for International Travel
The Morrison government will have a system in place within weeks to support the resumption of international travel as vaccination rates rise, the trade minister, Dan Tehan, says.
With senior federal ministers meeting on Wednesday to continue work around vaccine passports, Tehan told reporters the resumption of international travel would require “a system that can enable recognition of vaccination – a vaccination certification scheme.”