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Police Tap COVID-19 Tech to Expand Global Surveillance

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man holding a mobile phone in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound of the Old City of Jerusalem

A worshiper in the Old City of Jerusalem holds a mobile phone showing a message saying he's been tracked by Israeli intelligence.

Credit: Mahmoud Illean / AP Photo

Police forces worldwide are tapping technologies developed for coronavirus contact tracing for mass surveillance.

China, for example, requires citizens to install cellphone applications to move about freely in most cities as part of its COVID policy. The apps use telecommunications data and polymerase chain reaction test results to generate individual quick response codes that change hue based on a person's health status, but evidence suggests these and other health codes have been used to suppress dissent.

"What COVID did was accelerate state use of these tools and that data and normalize it, so it fit a narrative about there being a public benefit," says John Scott-Railton, a researcher at Canada-based Internet watchdog Citizen Lab. "Now the question is, are we going to be capable of having a reckoning around the use of this data, or is this the new normal?"

From Associated Press
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