SECOND WAVE FEARS GROW; DRONES TO CHECK TEMPS; CAMERAS MONITOR MASKS AND DISTANCING

As lockdowns lift, ‘second wave’ concerns grow

Paris (AFP) – As several nations begin relaxing their lockdowns following an initial peak in COVID-19 cases, attention is turning to how they can avoid a “second wave” of infections as social distancing is eased.

Italy and Spain — two of the hardest hit countries — have already started allowing people outside to exercise for the first time in nearly two months, and several US states are allowing businesses to reopen.

In France, where confinement measures are set to lift on May 11, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said there is a “fine line” between lifting restrictions on movement and avoiding a new surge in infections of a disease that has killed nearly a quarter of a million people globally.

“The risk of a second wave — which would hit our already fragile hospitals, which would need us to reimpose confinement and waste the efforts and sacrifices we’ve already made — is serious,” he said last week.

Fever-reading drones just first of a wave of privacy challenges, civil liberties advocates say

Last month, police departments in Daytona Beach and Connecticut unveiled what was initially touted as a potential new tool against a pandemic: drones capable of taking a person’s temperature from 300 feet in the air.

Both agencies quickly backtracked on using the machines to track the novel coronavirus after backlash from civil liberty groups warning about the implications of a “Big Doctor” in the sky singling out people simply for running a fever, when it might be nothing more than a more common and less deadly flu.

They raised other concerns as well: Are cops supposed to be monitoring health information that is private under federal law? Are drone readings, even with sophisticated infrared sensors, a trustworthy way to protect public health without violating individual rights?

“It collects data and information on everybody without guaranteeing it’s accurate,” said Kara Gross, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “Not only that, the other people around the person may have COVID. So the information could be bad and inaccurate.”

The drones are just one example of what some civil rights advocates fear could be a looming wave of intrusive technology and constitutionally questionable measures pushed by governments — from local to state to federal — under the mission of protecting a fearful community.

Already, they point out, thermal cameras have been installed at the criminal courthouse in Miami; governors in Massachusetts and Alabama have signed executive orders telling local health agencies to give first responders the addresses of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Google and Apple are working on cellphone applications that could inform someone on the other end of a call that they’re speaking with a virus carrier.

Authoritarian countries like China, already with poor human rights records, have tightened the screws further: Chinese who don’t agree to constant surveillance are forced to lock down in their homes, or face arrest.

It seems unlikely to go that far in the United States, where President Donald Trump is pressing to reopen the economy. But Gross, for one, pointed to 2001, when less than two months after terrorists struck New York City and Washington, D.C., Congress enacted the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the nation’s surveillance laws, while reducing checks and balances like judicial oversight — despite a litany of concerns raised about an erosion of civil rights.

“We need to be very careful given our past history,” Gross said.

Coronavirus France: Cameras to monitor masks and social distancing

Video surveillance cameras in France will monitor how many people are wearing masks and their compliance with social distancing when the coronavirus lockdown is eased next week.

The resort city of Cannes on the Côte d’Azur has trialled the monitoring software, installed at outdoor markets and on buses.

It is not clear how many other cities will adopt this digital surveillance.

French firm Datakalab says its software does not violate EU data privacy law.

“No image is stored or transmitted, ensuring that personal information is protected,” Datakalab said, announcing its collaboration with Cannes city hall, ahead of the 11 May relaxation of France’s tough lockdown.

 

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UK lockdown must not be lifted until Covid-19 transmission is understood, say scientists | World news | The Guardian