With The Rise Of Surveillance, People’s Digital Rights Suffer

NordVPN expert shares his views on COVID-19 related digital monitoring

By Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN

Governments around the world have adopted surveillance to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these state-of-the-art tracking methods might be hard to roll back.

At least 25 countries have implemented some sort of surveillance over its citizens. For example, the Russian government has issued QR codes for travelers and is planning to use surveillance cameras and facial recognition.

China has forced hundreds of millions to install a “health code” app, which determines whether the user is fit for travel or must stay at home.

While Europe is experimenting with tracking apps, drones and collecting telecom data, Israel has implemented strict national surveillance via mobile phones.

In India, people’s selfies are geolocated and tracked in order to locate them.

The South Korean government sent out detailed messages with travel information of coronavirus-infected people. Although the purpose was to inform on possible contact points, the texts revealed potentially embarrassing personal details. For example, some people had been involved in affairs or paid for sex.

While NordVPN agrees that all appropriate measures should be taken to stop the pandemic and save people’s lives, we also advocate for digital privacy. The problem with COVID-19 surveillance is that no one knows how this data is processed or what will happen with it in the future. On top of that, some countries are using surveillance without an appropriate legal basis.

We also worry about the lack of a clear end date or exit strategy for this digital monitoring. Governments should provide an explicit definition and strategy of how this surveillance will be ceased. Without guidance, this monitoring may turn from a combat tool against COVID-19 to a new norm and a new way of living.

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