Snowden says COVID-19 will give governments invasive new data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic

  • Edward Snowden said in an interview on Monday that increased surveillance amid the coronavirus outbreak could lead to long-lasting erosion of civil liberties.
  • Specifically, he theorized that states might demand access to people’s health data — such as their heart rate — from wearables.
  • Countries have been rapidly ramping up their surveillance of citizens to study and curb the spread of the virus, ranging from mapping anonymized phone location data to highly invasive powers, like allowing the security services to track people’s phones without a warrant.
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Edward Snowden, the man who exposed the breadth of spying at the US’s National Security Agency, has warned that an uptick in surveillance amid the coronavirus crisis could lead to long-lasting effects on civil liberties.

During a video-conference interview for the Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival, Snowden said that, theoretically, new powers introduced by states to combat the coronavirus outbreak could remain in place after the crisis has subsided.

Fear of the virus and its spread could mean governments “send an order to every fitness tracker that can get something like pulse or heart rate” and demand access to that data, Snowden said.