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COVID-19 alert goes up and personal privacy goes down

Tracking entire populations to combat COVID-19 could open the doors to more invasive forms of government espionage later on.

In South Korea

They are using surveillance camera footage, smartphone location data, and credit card purchase records to help track recent movements of coronavirus patients and establish chains of virus transmission.

In Lombardy, Italy

They are analyzing location data transmitted by citizens' mobile phones to determine how many people obey a government shutdown order and the typical distances they travel every day. About 40 percent is moving "too".

In Israel

The country's internal security is poised to start using a cache of mobile phone location data, originally intended for anti-terrorist operations, to try to identify citizens who may have been exposed to the virus.


As countries around the world compete to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, many are implementing digital surveillance tools as a means of exercising social control, even turning security agency technologies into their own civilians.

It is understandable that law enforcement and health authorities are eager to use every tool at their disposal to try to prevent the virus from spreading, even if surveillance efforts threaten to upset the precarious balance between public safety and personal privacy. world scale.

Increase vigilance

To combat the pandemic, it could now open doors to new, more invasive forms of invasion later. It is a lesson that Americans learned after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, say civil liberties experts.

Almost two decades later

Law enforcement has access to more powerful surveillance systems, such as precise location tracking and facial recognition, technologies that can be reused for other political agendas such as anti-immigration policies. Civil liberties experts warn that the public has few resources to challenge these digital exercises of state power.

"We could easily end up in a situation where we empower the local, state, or federal government to take action in response to this pandemic that fundamentally changes the scope of American civil rights," Albert Fox Cahn said.

As an example

He pointed to a law enacted by the state of New York this month that gives Governor Andrew M. as unlimited authority to govern by executive order during state crises like pandemics and hurricanes. The law allows you to issue emergency response directives that could override any local regulation.

Increased surveillance and disclosure of health data has also eroded violent and people's ability to keep their health private.

This month

The Australian health minister publicly rebuked a doctor whom he accused of treating patients while experiencing symptoms of the virus, essentially betraying him by naming the small clinic in Victoria, where he worked with a bunch of doctors.

The healthcare provider

He tested positive for the coronavirus, responded with a Facebook post saying the minister had mischaracterized his actions for political gain and demanded an apology.