Digital surveillance and smartphone technology could show helpful in containing the coronavirus pandemic—however, some activists worry this might mean lasting hurt to privacy and digital rights.
From China to Singapore to Israel, authorities have ordered electronic monitoring of their citizens‘ actions in an effort to limit contagion. In Europe and the U.S., technology companies have started sharing “anonymized” smartphone data to monitor the pandemic better.
These measures have prompted soul-searching by privacy activists who acknowledge the need for expertise to save lives while worrying over the potential for abuse.
The steps vary from place to place. Hong Kong required people arriving from overseas to wear tracking bracelets, and Singapore has a group of dedicated digital detectives monitoring those placed under isolation.
Israel’s security agency Shin Bet has started utilizing advanced technology and telecom data to track civilians.
In perhaps the most stringent move, China gave people smartphone codes showed in green, yellow, and red, figuring out where residents can and can’t go.
China is also among the many nations enhancing censorship concerning the crisis, human rights governor Freedom House stated, while others are blocking websites or shutting off web access.
Several activists cite the precedent of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which opened the door to more invasive surveillance in the name of national security.