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Experts discuss surveillance, intelligence during COVID-19
Live Webinar: Jennifer Gebelein, (Right column, from top to bottom) Shlomi Dinar, David Kramer and Nicholas Wright

Experts discuss surveillance, intelligence during COVID-19

May 12, 2020 at 2:44pm

Geopolitical shifts. Spread of disinformation. Artificial intelligence. Data management. It is too soon to tell what the geopolitical landscape will look like after COVID-19, experts agree. 

However, with the information we do have, there are a few crucial factors that will come into play for a safer world after this pandemic.

Epidemiological factors such as a cure or treatment and how effective we are in controlling the virus, economic factors like alleviating economic damage and political factors regarding the actions government leaders take will determine what the future will look like, explained Nicholas Wright, an intelligence consultant with Georgetown University, University College London and New America.

Wright spoke as part of a discussion on geopolitics and the pandemic, hosted by the Dorothea Green Lecture Series, in collaboration with the Master of Arts in Global Affairs Program and the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy.

The United States needs to work closely with our allies in efforts to combat this pandemic and prevent authoritarian regimes from taking advantage of the situation, added David Kramer, senior fellow of the Václav Havel Program on Human Rights and Diplomacy and director of the European and Eurasian Studies Program at the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs.

Kramer stressed the importance of a free press and the responsibility the media has to provide checks and balances to make sure that what is being reported is accurate, especially in those countries that are more susceptible to misinformation campaigns and propaganda efforts at an international scale.

Domestically, we are seeing federalism play out where states are largely responsible for the action they take in mobilizing their areas and a devolution of power from the presidency to those states.

Testing and data are currently at the forefront of this issue as we try to beat this virus. With a substantial amount of data that is being collected, there is a question of privacy and the possible role of artificial intelligence (AI) in this process.

There is an expectation for privacy, said Jennifer Gebelein, director of academic initiatives for academic and student success and research professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at FIU. To achieve this, it is important to incorporate the concept of anonymity, by using someone’s information to help others but keeping their name out of it.

The data that we use has to have a specific purpose and serve a specific task at hand, said Wright. Even though AI has not played a significant role thus far, it will be important in the future as we build systems with the massive amounts of data that is being collected, he explained.

Many people worldwide look to the U.S. for leadership, added Kramer. Now more than ever it is important to keep a united front in combatting this issue while maintaining our democratic values, providing humanitarian aid to our neighbors and addressing our own economic devastation, a big task, but something that can be done.