“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.”

Greenwald won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for his reporting on the disclosures by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed a vast secret infrastructure of US government surveillance. But like others who have spent years raising concerns about government overreach, he now accepts the idea that surveilling people who have contracted the coronavirus could be better than harsher measures to save lives.

“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.