Digital frontier technologies, COVID-19, and crime: A new threat in risky times?
Dr Sanja Milivojevic1
When the outbreak of COVID-19 hit the world in 2020, technology was hailed as a critical tool needed to help stem the tide of the pandemic, monitor the spread of the disease, and facilitate treatment (HIMSS Media, 2020). As the future increasingly looks risky, even dangerous, we focus on technology and science, expecting miracles. Contagious diseases, the ongoing threat of global warming, development, and the potential use of weapons of mass destruction are a constant in the media and public discourse, as we are seemingly only one step away from one such disaster. The future is held as precarious, and technology and science are the essential tools that can tame the beast.
On the other hand, technological innovations are deemed hazardous, if not fatal, for individuals, communities, or humankind. There is no doubt that in the future Internet of algorithms, artificial intelligence, interconnected smart devices and autonomous machines, unwanted outcomes of digital frontier technologies could be severe and global (see Bostrom and Cirkovic, 2011). This is particularly relevant vis-à-vis crime and offending (Milivojevic, 2021).
We have witnessed repeated warnings about the rise of offences (both traditional and new) committed with assistance or via technology during the pandemic. We have also seen an introduction to a range of new measures to combat such a rise. In this paper, I analyse how the “risky” times of the global pandemic were linked to criminal activity in traditional and social media and the policy development in the Global North. I also look at whether interventions designed to disrupt such a rise led to further restrictions of fundamental human rights and civil liberties rather than crime prevention.
Dr Sanja Milivojevic is a Research Fellow in Criminology at La Trobe, Melbourne and Associate Director of Border Criminologies and Research Associate at Oxford University. Sanja holds LL.B and LL.M from Belgrade University’s Law School, and PhD from Monash University, Australia. Sanja’s research interests are borders and mobility, security technologies and surveillance, gender and victimisation, and international criminal justice and human rights. Sanja publishes in English and Serbian. Her latest book Crime and Punishment in the Future Internet: Digital Frontier Technologies and Criminology in the Twenty-First Century is published by Routledge (2021).