VPN Review Site Creates Live Digital Rights Tracker To Compile Coronavirus-Related Surveillance Efforts
from the invaluable-resources-in-these-super-screwed-up-times dept
Since lots and lots of (mostly government) people seem to agree these particularly desperate times call for particularly privacy-invading desperate measures, it only makes sense someone should be tracking the trackers. Enter Samuel Woodhams of Top10VPN, who has compiled a handy list of who’s hoovering who to keep tabs on COVID-19 cases and coronavirus carriers.
Woodhams says not everything listed here in Top10VPN’s “Digital Rights Tracker” is necessarily bad. It’s just that a lot of it is.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, governments around the world have implemented a range of digital tracking, physical surveillance and censorship measures in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
Some of these may well be proportionate, necessary and legitimate during these unprecedented times. However, others have been rushed through legislative bodies and implemented without adequate scrutiny.
There’s a lot to keep track of. Woodhams points out 14 new digital tracking efforts have been introduced in March alone, with Europe responsible for half of that number.
For instance, Singapore’s government has released a tracking app that uses Bluetooth connections to identify people who have been “in close proximity” of COVID-19 patients. Poland’s government has also released an app that tracks people self-quarantining by prompting users to send periodic geolocated selfies to the government.
All across Europe, mobile providers are in discussions with governments to utilize the location data they’ve harvested to track patients, possible carriers, and the general spread of the virus.
But it’s not just data. It’s also physical tracking of citizens around the world. Multiple governments have deployed drones to enforce lockdowns, curfews, and social distancing. Meanwhile, Russia and China continue to be Russia and China, only with a thin veneer of actually giving a shit if their citizens live or die.
On Friday, 21 February, Reuters reported that Moscow’s mayor had announced the use of facial recognition to help ensure people remained at home.
According to the article, the mayor wrote on his website: “Compliance with the regime is constantly monitored, including with the help of facial recognition systems and other technical measures.”
Since the outbreak of the virus, the Chinese regime has used a host of surveillance measures to try and stem the spread of the disease.
This has included, and not limited to, the use of drones, facial recognition cameras and mobile phone monitoring.
Two of the country’s largest state-owned telecommunication operators, China Unicom and China Telecom, asked citizens in Wuhan to provide the personal information in order to link them to their devices and allow more effective monitoring.
Top10VPN’s tracker also tracks censorship — something that has gone hand-in-hand with the virus’ spread from Wuhan, China to other countries with governments similarly desirous of controlling the narrative. China has censored local reporting and kicked out foreign journalists. Its reach extends to Hong Kong, where it has managed to bury research linking game meat markets to SARS and COVID-19.
Egypt has revoked press credentials from two foreign journalists and Singapore’s government has blocked local access to States Time Review’s Facebook page — one run by Alex Tan, a prominent critic of the Singaporean government.
There’s much more covered here, including internet shutdowns in several countries and restricted internet access in regions where governments are seeking to control access to reporting. You may as well bookmark this page as it’s going to be continuously updated as more reports of tracking/surveillance/censorship roll in.
A crisis is an opportunity for government expansion. This pandemic is opportunity knocking on hundreds of doors simultaneously. If we’re not careful, many of us are going to end up with the surveillance state we never wanted and the always-on tracking we never deserved.