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.

Filed Under: coronavirus, covid-19, laws, privacy, surveillance, tracking

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  1. identicon
    ROGueS, 28 Mar 2020 @ 10:18am

    Re: I'll Bite

    Actually, best practice is to ALWAYS feed the trolls, because you will learn a lot about the(brutally) conformist/non-conformist culture around you in any discourse, and later, you will see those around you who "don't feed the trolls" as the exact back stabbing egoists, and smear campaign types that they are.

    So, start with the trolls but also apply common sense and rationality. We know what we are doing, which is preserving actual democracy, equality, and truth while subverting future megalomaniacs from misleading you.

    That said, your closing "Stay safe/Peace" is a contradiction and a paradox with zero correlation in reality.

    Safety, and peace have never worked well together in the culture you are ensnared in, and has not worked in any generation of Jewish-christian societies, ever. They are counter-intutive and incompatible premises.

    Especially here at Techdirt, we see this interplay quite strikingly, as the Techdirt Flag Brigade routinely hides "bad thoughts, and scary words" via its comment flagging system.

    SO, lets re-examine the (alleged)troll:

    It said:

    You, my new friend, and unlike the typical side stepping disingenuous slippery bastards that post in this disease infected toilet, are a good writer. You seem nice too, even encouraging others to stay healthy. Assuming you live long enough to develop and test your ideology, I think you and I might be more similar than you might think, when you fully ripen.

    Now, lets examine its speech and its alliteration, with a special mind towards noticing its dependence on false ideological presumptions.

    I think, in the future world, such analysis could be valuable cognizant of the errors in its speech, contrasted against its over arching narrative goals .

    What do you think?

    But I think hiding posts from the so-called "community" here at Techdirt denies the average, or budding linguist a chance to engage with evidence, much less form opinions about cultural artifacts like "fully ripen".

    Sure, maybe ROGS Analysis is delusional, or....something.

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