March 8, 2024 - 5:00pm

The psychologist and author Jordan Peterson has warned that “no one will escape the purview” of government surveillance as new technology emerges while making a statement to a Congressional committee yesterday.

Peterson expanded by saying that while the US government is currently targeting people with “more conservative leanings”, it would change “in a moment when the political tides shift”, in a warning to those on the Left.

Speaking in Washington DC to the “Weaponization of federal government” committee, which is investigating the use of US citizens’ personal information by federal government branches, Peterson outlined the risks of monitoring, suggesting that increased cooperation between governments and corporations could create a “super-surveillance”.

The committee was also attended by Michael Fanone, a police officer defending the Capitol building on January 6 who was dragged through a crowd by the rioters and who described his experience as “brutal” and “violent”. Peterson described the storming of the Capitol in 2021 as a “very partisan issue” which produces a “very partisan divide”.

When asked why he didn’t embrace AI and facial recognition for safety, Peterson stated that there was “tremendous danger in too much security”, and that the safety would be short-term while the threats to privacy would be long-lasting.

Yesterday’s committee hearing took place in the wake of Jim Jordan’s announcement in January that he had received documents showing the US government had flagged consumer transactions which mentioned support for Donald Trump. Transactions were marked for including terms such as “MAGA” and “Trump”, indicating an interest in following the financial activity of Right-leaning Americans.

During the course of the hearing, Democrats and Republicans disagreed on the extent to which the government should have access to banking records. Jim Jordan stressed the problems of the FBI analysing rioters bank records without a warrant, while Democrat Stacey Plaskett suggested that the search was justified to prevent a future event similar to the Capitol riot.

The committee later asked Peterson for his thoughts on Canada’s de-banking scandal, in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the controversial Emergencies Act to freeze the bank accounts of those who participated in “Freedom Convoy” protests over Covid measures.

Peterson responded by raising the dangers of de-banking in the US. He said it “was absolutely coming” and that it would be “facilitated by the advancements in technology” that the world is currently seeing, such as ongoing developments in AI.

Citing China as an example of a government using tools such as AI and facial recognition, Peterson described how the Chinese Communist Party has the “most complete apparatus of surveillance in the world”, highlighting the country’s 700 million CCTV cameras. The technology that might then be created, according to the author, would be something “George Orwell could scarcely imagine”.

is UnHerd’s Editorial Trainee.