The “Cuomo Files” series

Responding to the New York Governor’s appeal for research into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on minority communities, MONITOR is introducing the first episode of its ‘Cuomo Files’ series with an incisive video by academic Nitzan Lebovic on the surveillance apparatus targeting minorities: “The Most Exiled”, for MONITOR, Global Intelligence On Racism.

Dr Nitzan Lebovic is Associate Professor in the History Department of Lehigh University, U.S. Nitzan’s second book, Zionism and Melancholy: The Short Life of Israel Zarchi, came out in Hebrew in 2015 and will be published with the “New Jewish Philosophy and Thought” series at Indiana University Press.

Links to articles used in the video

David Harvey, March 19, 2020 “Anti-Capitalist Politics in the Time of COVID-19

KCRW, April 9, 2020 “Possibility of racial profiling steers some black men away from masks during COVID-19 crisis

David Lyon. “Exploring Surveillance Culture.” On_Culture: The Open Journal for the Study of Culture (2018):

Wired, September 5, 2019 “Inside China’s Massive Surveillance Operation” April 1, 2020 “Israel’s Justice Ministry Opposes ‘Unusual’ Collaboration With NSO to Fight Coronavirus

The Shift, March 24, 2020 “Hungarian emergency bill could jail journalists for five years for ‘fake news’

Rolling Stone, MARCH 21, 2020 “DOJ Wants to Suspend Certain Constitutional Rights During Coronavirus Emergency

The Hill,  04/10/20 “Apple and Google launch joint coronavirus tracing system

Foreign Affairs, April 7, 2020 “The Pandemic Will Accelerate History Rather Than Reshape It

(Some) State Responses to Coronavirus, by March 2020


15 February 2020, according to Raymond Zhong and Paul Mozur of the NYT, China was using hundreds of thousands of uniformed volunteers (neighborhood committees) and CP representatives to enforce quarantines. For instance, Hubei Province (with capital Wuhan) has deployed 170,000 “grid workers.” Mobilization numbers not seen since Maoist period. Some use of text messages and military-developed apps to track travel and location of people. Quarantine measures also include mandatory temperature readings on entering office buildings, face masks for taking public transit or entering businesses, entire neighborhoods blocked off to non-residents, closing off apartment housing with positive carriers, school-movie-mall-nonessential business closures, daily building sterilizations.

Facial recognition firm Megvii said it could spot and identify people with fevers, and SenseTime said it had systems for building entrances to identify people wearing masks.

France “War with the coronavirus”

Measures lasting for at least 2 weeks starting 17 March 2020: suspension of rent, taxes, social charges, water, electricity, and gas; need to download online form from French Ministry of Interior to venture outside or face fine of €38 that could rise up to €130 if left unpaid, enforced by 100,000 police and gendarmes; ban on crowds of >100, closure of non-essential shops, ski resorts, and major landmarks; borders closed, bar the return of French nationals.

State of emergency, PM on advice of Minister of Health allowed to implement national restrictive measures, state allowed to requisition goods and services to combat the health crisis, increased fines for violating confinement raised at minimum to €135.

France launched an online test approved by the Health Ministry to assess people’s symptoms for people worried they might have contracted the virus, also collecting information about “weight, height, age, and additional information concerning their general state of health.” It then advises on whether to seek further services. An assessment, not a diagnosis. Test is anonymous, only identified by postal code, and data sent to the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

Military operation “Resilience” to support public services.

Increase use of drones by France, like China, to keep surveillance and enforce quarantines. Also mentions use in Spain to make public announcements and in Indonesia to spread disinfectant.

Between 17 March (start of lockdown) – 1 April 2020 some 5.8 million checks had been carried out and 359,000 fines issues.

Debate on private liberty vs public health. European public opinion highly favors a mobile phone app to surveil enforcement of social distancing.


30 March 2020, Hungary granted sweeping emergency powers to PM Viktor Orban, including the sidelining of parliament and the indefinite power to rule by decree. Harsh punishment of up to 5 years in prison for those spreading “false information” about the pandemic.


22 March 2020, India launched a 14-hour day-time curfew. 4 cities in Modi’s hometown of Gujarat are on a complete shutdown until 25 March.

Curfew wasn’t mandatory, although “mostly well observed.”


Publicly since 18 March 2020, PM Netanyahu has been using the Shin Bet domestic spy agency to launch cellphone surveillance to locate and message people who could have the virus. 19 March the Supreme Court barred the police from using this data to enforce further quarantines.

Police collect the data on location of people under surveillance by requesting it from a cellphone company, then send it to the Health Ministry. Shin Bet able to access all cellphone information except the content of conversations and messages, which is considered wiretapping and requires a specific court order.

All schools, restaurants, and entertainment venues closed. Order to stay home as of 19 March.

North Korea

Report at least 7,000 people in medical surveillance. Has banned foreign tourists, mostly closed off borders, delayed the school year, and mobilized tens of thousands of government workers every day for disease-prevention efforts.

In addition to border checks, NK customs authorities have put foreign shipping containers in 10-day quarantine.


1 April 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte announced police and military are ordered to shoot those resisting quarantine measures.


21 February 2020, Moscow using facial recognition technology to help enforce home and hotel quarantines; network of 100,000 cameras in Moscow; temporary ban on Chinese nationals entering the country; new mobile app due out 5 April 2020 for Moscow coronavirus patients to “ensure self-discipline” to monitor their location while keeping personal data secure, coupled with a separate initiative to introduce a QR code in Moscow capable of being scanned on phones to ensure approval from city officials for leaving home. Fines of up to 50,000 robles ($640) or prison sentences up to 7 years depending on consequences of violation of quarantine.


According to David Harvey, “China and Singapore deployed their powers of personal surveillance to levels that were invasive and authoritarian. But they seem to have been extremely effective in aggregate.”

“The Singapore authorities undertook especially intensive efforts to trace the contacts of people known to be infected. Hospital staff went to great lengths to interview patients about their recent whereabouts; when information was unclear or unavailable, the Ministry of Health retrieved additional data from transport companies and hotels, including by consulting CCTV footage.”

South Africa

Reports of violence, especially rubber bullets, tear gas, and whips, to enforce social distancing and quarantines in South Africa, as well as Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Nigeria.

South Korea

Government has authorized itself to “collect mobile phone, credit card, and other data from those who test positive to reconstruct their recent whereabouts. That information, stripped of personal identifies, is shared on social media apps that allow others to determine whether they may have crossed paths with an infected person.”

Tracing combined with “the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world.” (Science Mag)

Also matter of speed of South Korean testing rollout as compared to US.


According to Reporters Without Borders, state-controlled media is forbidden from referring to Coronavirus, while Radio Free Europe reports plainclothes officers arresting those wearing facemasks or discussing the pandemic.

United Kingdom

Reported 19 March 2020, British health officials and scientists working on a smartphone app to track and alert people coming into contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. App similar in technology to Chinese government apps, but supposedly would rely on voluntary participation and a “sense of civic duty”.

 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson imposes 3 week nationwide lockdown.

United States

30 day travel ban to EU countries.

On 21 March 2020, Betsy Woodruff Swan of Politico reported that the Justice Department was petitioning Congress to increase the powers of chief judges in emergencies, including the ability to detain people indefinitely without trial, pause court proceedings (potentially undermining habeas corpus), and pause the statute of limitations.

Rise of online proctoring services by universities to monitor college exams by tapping into cameras, microphones, and computer screens. Some use facial recognition and eye-tracking. Proctors are not typically seen by students. Proctors can demand to see students’ rooms to ensure no cheating materials on hand.

Possibility of racial profiling steers some black men away from masks during COVID-19 crisis.