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The CDC Awards $260 Million Contract For Disease Surveillance

Published: October 1, 2023 | Print Friendly and PDF
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Taking a significant stride towards the surveillance state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disclosed its plans to back a colossal health endeavor with a hefty sum of over $260 million. The objective is an unprecedented aggregation of individual and community data leading to a predictive model. However, some critics contend that the initiative entails a serious threat of potential misuse.

The colossal investment targets at setting up a wide-ranging “public-private” network. Harnessing the prowess of artificial intelligence (AI), the sophisticated overlay of technology will assimilate unprecedented amounts of data and engender algorithms that anticipate disease outbreaks. These intricate and futuristic models with predictive abilities could then guide local, state, and national cohorts in establishing suitable “control measures” for disease outbreaks.

The plan unveiled last week reports about an estimated funding of $262.5 million spread over five years that aims at creating 13 forecasting and analytics centers for infectious diseases across the U.S. This network will channelize the coordinated effort to predict and control disease outbreaks.

Several universities involved in COVID-19 modeling and response activities would receive around $20 million each out of this investment. These include the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, that arranged the simulation Event 201, and the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health, known for its gain-of-function research led by Ralph Baric.

Two private entities – Kaiser Permanente Southern California and a “disaster preparedness organization” named International Responder Systems LLC, will also be participants.

Engaging several esteemed entities, few centers involve US Department of Defense (DOD) researchers and bioengineering corporations in the initiative. These team-ups aim at inventing new AI and machine learning-based modeling equipment and platforms for the cause.

The concerning aspect of the proposals is where it comes to data.

While some entities monitor factors like viruses detected in waste water, others scoop up data from health insurance companies, healthcare providers, local health departments, and some even gather data from individual search histories, personal communications, social media posts, and health records.

These practitioners will test tracking and prediction tools in neighboring communities or amongst certain demographic groups and go on to scale up successful projects.

The new CDC-led endeavor, functioning like a forecast for infectious diseases, executes under the new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics (CFA). Launched by the Biden administration, the CFA seeks to model, predict, and control disease outbreaks throughout America.

Ironically, CFA holds clear corporate leanings, with strong ties to private industry despite being established in an orbital government body. The enormous funding it receives, and its closest ties to private corporations raise significant privacy concerns.

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