Do We Really Need to Exchange Privacy for Security?

Do We Really Need to Exchange Privacy for Security?

By Mark Nestmann • May 26, 2020

The symbol for “crisis” in Chinese contains two characters – 危机. The first character signifies danger. The second signifies “opportunity.”

COVID-19 is giving us a taste of crisis, and Big Brother isn’t wasting the opportunity to find better ways to control the general population. When a crisis emerges, people are less concerned about their civil liberties than keeping a roof over their head and enough food to sustain them.

Operating in survival mode means we’ll be more willing to accept the civil liberties sacrifices we’re being told are necessary. And those sacrifices begin with your smartphone.

At least 47 smartphone-based contact tracing apps in 28 countries are available, using mobile data tracking to record your interactions with other people. China, South Korea, Taiwan and Israel use human contact tracers who have access to CCTV video streams and mobile phone location data to enforce quarantines.

But smartphone surveillance is just the beginning. Police in China, Dubai, and Italy are using scanners to measure people’s temperatures as they walk by. Face recognition networks and drones are also being used to enforce stay-at-home regimes.

In the US, similar, if less draconian, measures are underway to aid in safely reopening the economy. Tens of thousands of contact tracers have already been hired. Apple and Google have released contact tracing technology for mobile apps to identify people known to have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Uncle Sam has given employers permission to set up workplace temperature-screening programs. Add to this mix the development of face recognition systems that can see through masks

If these measures don’t quash COVID-19, the day may soon come where the government gives you this choice: either stay at home and enjoy what “privacy” you have left, or consent to continuous surveillance when you leave.

Given those options, I suspect most people would consent to continuous surveillance. After all, if consenting allows you to go back to work, send your kids to school, attend church, and socialize with your friends, it’s hard to say no.

But there’s also the inconvenient issue of cash. To avoid it, public health officials recommend “contactless payments” where retail employees don’t need to handle currency or even touch a customer’s credit or debit card.

Along those lines, consider this initiative by Chinese authorities, initiated since COVID-19 outbreak: requiring banks to literally “launder” cash with UV light and high temperatures, then placing it in quarantine for up to 14 days before releasing it to the public.

But how likely is COVID-19 spread through paper currency? Not very, according to experts who have found that the primary means of transmission is through person-to-person contact.

That discovery is not stopping Chinese authorities from restricting the use of cash, though. Indeed, COVID-19 comes at just the right time to allow the government to end the use of paper money altogether. Only instead of justifying the move as a crime-fighting measure, it can be spun as a way to protect public health.

The real reason governments want to abolish cash, though, is that it gives Big Brother control of our money. By combining a cashless society and negative interest rates, governments can effectively flush out any hidden or saved wealth.

You can’t save because negative interest rates mean you’re paying the bank. There’s nowhere to hide.

Some of us may rationalize that these measures are only temporary; when the pandemic ebbs, the restrictions will be rescinded. Unfortunately, that’s not how these “temporary” infringements have historically worked out.

Consider the aftermath of 9/11, for instance. On September 23, 2001, President Bush #2 signed Executive Order 13224. The order declares a national emergency authorizing the government to confiscate the property of anyone believed to support terrorism. No arrest or trial is necessary, much less a criminal conviction.

And it never ended, because the “War on Terror” neatly matches the agenda of the tech giants that together with their friends in high places comprise the “surveillance-capitalism complex.” Indeed, President Trump only last year decided to “modernize” its authority with additional confiscatory powers.

Initially, the target list accompanying the order contained 27 names. At the end of 2018, it contained more than 1,400.

And don’t forget the USA PATRIOT Act. Among other provisions, the law greatly expanded the government’s civil forfeiture authority. While the law was justified an anti-terror measure, its very first use was in an anti-fraud investigation far removed from terrorism.  For good measure, the law also makes “bulk cash smuggling” a federal crime.

And while parts of the PATRIOT Act were supposed to expire (and some parts did expire in March), the Senate just voted to renew the USA Freedom Act, which extends the PATRIOT Act’s expansive domestic surveillance authority. 

Then there are the “terrorists” themselves unearthed by these initiatives: groups like the Quakers, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace, the Arab American Anti-Defamation Committee, and the American Civil Liberties Union, along with their members.

So, no, those freedoms we gave away in the aftermath of 9/11 didn’t come back. And they won’t be coming back this time, either.

And if you would like to opt out of surveillance? Well, you could always stay at home. As one surveillance advocate put it, “A user choice conception of privacy must give way to other societal interests.”

Many of our clients would prefer not to live in a county that outlaws a “user choice conception of privacy.” And we’ve helped thousands of people set up what I call “lifeboats” of privacy and freedom worldwide – offshore accounts, international trusts, second residencies, second citizenships, and much more.

Maybe it’s time to consider your own Plan B.

Protecting your assets (and yourself) against any threat - from the government, the IRS or a frivolous lawsuit - is something The Nestmann Group has helped more than 15,000 Americans do over the last 30 years.

Feel free to get in touch at or call +1 (602) 688-7552 to learn how we can help you.

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About The Author

Since 1990, Mark Nestmann has helped thousands of clients seeking wealth preservation and international tax planning solutions. He is the author of highly acclaimed Lifeboat Strategy and other books & reports dealing with these subjects.

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