Countries Resort To Mass Surveillance To Make Sure Quarantined People Stay At Home

by Darshit Singh 2 months ago Views 1839
Countries Resort To Mass Surveillance To Make Sure
As the novel coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across the globe claiming over 16,565 lives, infecting over 382,031 cases and bringing the global economy to a standstill, countries across the globe are ramping up their efforts to ensure people remain indoors, especially the ones who are advised to quarantine themselves for a period of time.

Quarantine simply means separating and restricting the movement of people exposed or could get exposed to a contagious disease for a brief period of time(in this case its 14 days).

Also Read: ‘Act Fast And Do Whatever It Takes’ To Fight COVID-19 Crisis, Say Leading Economists

China, where the virus originated, is using drones, infrared temperature scanners and facial recognition technology to monitor people and contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Taiwan, which has won global accolades for its effective response against the coronavirus, has rolled out a mobile-phone-based “electronic fence” that uses GPS tracking to ensure people who are quarantined stay home.

The system keeps track of phone signals to alert police and local authorities in case those in home quarantine move away from their address or switch off their phones. Authorities even visit those addresses within 15 minutes in case the system triggers an alarm.

Authorities also call twice a day so that people can’t dodge tracking by leaving their phones at home.

Another Asian country, Hong Kong, has come with location-tracking wristbands for those in quarantine using the geofencing technology which the government says poses no privacy risks as it doesn’t track people’s exact location.

Screenshot of the StayHomeSafe app available on the Apple app store and Google Play

Singapore, one of the most densely populated countries on Earth, tackled the spread of the virus most efficiently with the help of a dedicated team of digital detectives who used CCTV footage, data visualisation, police investigation, and an app called “Trace Together” to track down potential positive cases.

In Israel, after PM Benjamin Netanyahu allowed the implementation of emergency cyber-surveillance measures for 30 days, authorities are tracking the mobile phones of those diagnosed with the virus as well as those suspected of contracting it. The technology was developed for counterterrorism purposes.

South Korea launched the “self-quarantine safety protection” app in the first week of March which uses GPS tracking and can also be used by the patients to report their symptoms and provide status updates to officials.

In the US where data privacy is a big issue, the Government and tech giants including Facebook, Google are deliberating on sharing location and movement data of Americans to combat coronavirus.

Poland’s app for quarantined citizens launched on March 19 asks users to send geo-located selfies at random times throughout the day, so that the authorities know in case someone tries to sneak out.

Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium are taking the help of their mobile operators to share aggregated location data with the health ministries.

The sudden rise in mass surveillance has triggered panic among privacy rights activists who say that even at this time of crisis, Government measures infringing on civil liberties must be kept under check so that the temporary measures don’t become permanent in the future.

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