When I wrote about our emerging social distancing police state, I focused primarily on the broad, authoritarian powers being handed over to the executive branch at all levels and the temptations such executives might feel to use them excessively. But there’s another aspect of suspicion about our government that’s also drawing some attention during the pandemic. Libertarians have long been concerned about the way emerging technologies have led to a growing “surveillance state,” where Big Brother is watching your every move, collecting your data and potentially using those capabilities to infringe on your rights. But are such concerns being somehow muted when the alternative is dying of a modern-day plague?

That seems to be the position being taken in a recent opinion piece at Buzzfeed written by Rosie Gray and Caroline Haskins. We’re seeing plenty of trends around the country where citizens seem to glumly accept the idea of greatly expanded restrictions on their movements and government tracking of their activities in the name of stopping the spread of the virus. And as Gray and Haskins point out, even libertarian extremist Glenn Greenwald has found himself at least partially surrendering to the need for Big Brother to keep us safe, even if it means being spied on and supervised more than at any time in recent memory.

“I’m very concerned” about civil liberties, writer Glenn Greenwald, cofounder of the Intercept, who built his career as a critic of government surveillance, told BuzzFeed News. “But at the same time, I’m also much more receptive to proposals that in my entire life I never expected I would be, because of the gravity of the threat…”

“The kind of digital surveillance that I spent a lot of years — even before Snowden, and then obviously, the two or three years during Snowden — advocating against is now something I think could be warranted principally to stave off the more brute solutions that were used in China,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald said he was still trying to understand how to balance his own views on privacy against the current unprecedented situation. “We have to be very careful not to get into that impulse either where we say, ‘hey, because your actions affect the society collectively, we have the right now to restrict it in every single way.’ We’re in this early stage where our survival instincts are guiding our thinking, and that can be really dangerous.

I wanted to share this piece with our readers because I seem to be experiencing a bizarre sort of role reversal as we watch the pandemic play out. Long-time readers likely know that I’ve never been one to get terribly upset over technologies like facial recognition, cameras monitoring public spaces or the sharing of certain personal information with law enforcement. (That’s particularly true of immigration enforcement.) Privacy when out in the public square simply isn’t a reasonable expectation in most cases and I’m generally all in favor of helping LEOs catch the bad guys.

In fact, I’ve penned any number of articles where I’ve specifically argued against the positions that Greenwald in particular takes. And yes I’ve long held the often-derided opinion that if you haven’t done anything wrong, you really don’t need to worry very much about the government checking in on what you’re doing.

I still don’t oppose the cameras, the facial recognition software and all the rest, but when it comes to the expansion and potential abuse of executive power under declared emergency conditions I’m growing far warier. It’s almost as if Greenwald and I are slowly moving toward switching sides in this feud.

While I support law enforcement and recognize the need for the government to keep everyone safe from the bad guys, many of the things we’re seeing unfold around the country this year are simply disturbing. Having the government tell everyone they need to stay at home and not contract or spread the disease simply makes sense. But when the police are stopping pairs of citizens on the streets to ask them what business they have being out for a walk, things take on a distinctly dystopian tone. Keeping potentially infected individuals out of mass transit systems seems like a no-brainer. But the sight of armed, uniformed National Guardsmen interrogating everyone arriving on planes, trains and buses from other parts of our own country gives me the heebie-jeebies.

There’s no way around it. We’re certainly going to have to put up with bit more executive, authoritarian control as we work our way through this pandemic. But we should also be ready to ride shotgun on our executive branch officials when the crisis has passed and ensure that this doesn’t become the new normal.