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As Coronavirus Surveillance Escalates, Personal Privacy Plummets

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New software in China decides whether people should be quarantined,or permitted to enter public places.

As countries race to contain the pandemic, many are deploying digital surveillance tools as a means to exert social control, even turning security agency technologies on their own civilians.

Credit: Raymond Zhong

Many countries scrambling to contain the coronavirus pandemic are deploying digital surveillance to control their populations, which jeopardizes personal privacy and could encourage more intrusive methods of social control later.

China's government is forcing citizens in hundreds of cities to use software on their phones that automatically classifies each person with a color code indicating contagion risk, without explaining how the system works and leaving citizens unable to challenge it.

The White House also discussed with major technology companies the potential for using aggregated location data from Americans' cellphones for public health surveillance of the virus.

Mila Romanoff at United Nations Global Pulse called for a framework that lets companies and public authorities cooperate to facilitate a proper response to pandemics for the public good. She said privacy violations could be avoided in such scenarios if governments and companies limit data collection and use to only what is needed.

From The New York Times
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Abstracts Copyright © 2020 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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