- Digital surveillance rolled out to curb coronavirus should be limited, groups say
- Governments turning to technology to trace infections, keep tabs on population
- Civil society organisations say it could cause lasting damage to people’s rights
The world is sleepwalking into a surveillance state during the coronavirus pandemic, rights groups have claimed.
Digital surveillance rolled out to curb coronavirus should be limited in time and scope, more than 100 rights groups said on Thursday, warning governments not to use the crisis as cover for pervasive snooping.
From facial recognition to phone tracking, governments are turning to technology to trace infections and keep tabs on the population as they enforce lockdowns, curfews and quarantines.
But without appropriate safeguards in place, tools deployed to save lives could cause lasting harm to people’s rights, leading civil society organisations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Privacy International, said in a statement.
‘An increase in state digital surveillance powers, such as obtaining access to mobile phone location data, threatens privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of association,’ the groups said.
More than 935,000 people have been infected with coronavirus and some 47,000 have died since December, according to a Reuters tally, leading government to impose lockdowns, travel bans and tighter border controls – often with heightened surveillance.
‘Governments risk compounding the harms of this outbreak by running roughshod over our privacy and dignity,’ Peter Micek, general counsel at digital rights group Access Now said in a statement.