The history of coronavirus begins in 1787 at the closure of the Constitutional Convention when Benjamin Franklin spoke some of the most consequential words in American history. 

The exchange took place when a Philadelphia woman asked Franklin if the convention had established a monarchy or a republic. Franklin’s witty and ominous response would then forever enter the history books:

“A republic, if you can keep it.”

Today, the founding father’s words are more important than ever. At every turn in the nation’s history, we have been faced with crisis after crisis that test the limits of the constitution and democratic system. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic affecting every single American citizen, it is crucial that we as a country do not relinquish the rights and liberties we have fought so hard to keep.

While draconian measures have already been implemented across the country, such as mandatory quarantining and “stay-at-home” measures, the most dangerous policies being enacted have largely escaped media attention. 

Sweeping mass surveillance legislation is slithering its way through our nation’s government, and it poses a critical threat to the personal freedom of all Americans.

Private companies, such as Facebook and Google, are actively working with government officials to share the smartphone data of average citizens. If those companies intertwine themselves with legislation enough, it will give them a dangerous legitimacy and license to continue harvesting our personal data.

“We could so easily end up in a situation where we empower local, state or federal government to take measures in response to this pandemic that fundamentally change the scope of American civil rights,“ said Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a nonprofit organization in New York City.

With an increase in mass surveillance, it becomes increasingly harder for individuals to protect their own private health from becoming public.


 

Even scarier, however, is what may come after the coronavirus is long gone. In an attempt to prevent future pandemics, governments may begin assigning digital identifiers to citizens. These identifiers will create a whole host of civil rights violations for individuals, as it will enable the government to intrude in almost every sector of daily life. Your anonymity will be stripped right along with your freedoms. 

The American public is the final check on government authority. We must band together in these trying times and stop those in power from destroying what remaining rights we still have.

Matthew Geiger is a freshman studying economics at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Matthew? Tweet him @Mattg444.