The Rise of Pandemic Surveillance
Dear OneZero reader,
The world is changing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Governments are instituting new surveillance measures to slow the spread of Covid-19, and there’s some concern that the changes might be permanent.
In Poland, an app called Home Quarantine prompts citizens to intermittently check in by sending a picture of themselves at home. They face a fine if they fail to do so within 20 minutes. The app uses facial recognition to confirm that the image shows the person being quarantined, and the phone’s location data is used to make sure they’re really at home.
Here in the United States, in West Virginia, those who test positive for the virus but refuse to quarantine are being outfitted with GPS ankle monitors, according to the Associated Press.
The list goes on and on. OneZero senior writer Dave Gershgorn has collected examples from 28 countries so far. We’ve charted it all on a world map, and we’ll update it every week.
As Dave explains in his feature, pandemic surveillance represents a complex trade-off: “Governments need information to create containment strategies and know where to focus resources. At the same time, governments have a way of holding onto tools that undermine citizens’ privacy long after the moment of crisis has passed. Take, for example, the United States’ 2001 Patriot Act, which was passed in response to the 9/11 attacks. The Patriot Act gave the government broad surveillance powers with little oversight, including demanding customer data from telecoms without court approval. Twenty years later, it’s still around.”
Rest assured, we’re keeping our eyes on it.
Thank you for reading, and for supporting our work. Keep those hands clean!
Editor in Chief, OneZero