Cellphone monitoring is spreading with the coronavirus. So is an uneasy tolerance of surveillance-Washington Post


In times of Covid-19, one thing that has been nonchalantly accepted along with the feelings of fear and insecurity is “being watched”. Millions of people are now being kept under surveillance with or without their consent. Under the guise of enforcing quarantine measures, governments are using cellphone apps aimed at tracing the spread of the coronavirus.

Surveillance has been regarded as a “necessary evil” as millions of people fall to the virus. The report underlines, “At least 27 countries are using data from cellphone companies to track the movements of citizens”.

Many countries have developed smartphone apps for the public to download.In some countries like Singapore, the monitoring of people through these apps has raised fever objections, though in Europe and America it has provoked a much louder debate. South Koreans have willingly signed up to use websites or apps that show how the virus is spreading.

The report says, “One is the app, called Life fits in the Home, which solicits personal details to track infections and provides information, including the location of nearby hospitals and pharmacies”. In particular, health authorities track the movement of people and then later retrace the steps of those diagnosed with the virus by using GPS phone tracking, credit card records, surveillance video and interviews with patients. In South Korea, where there has never been a proper lockdown, “patients travel histories are published without names to help others identify whether they crossed paths with a virus carrier”.

Privacy advocates worry that the travel data can be accessed not just by health-conscious residents but also by “voyeuristic onlookers”. Another concern is that “apps relying on Bluetooth radios can provide inexact location data and falsely identify people as infected”. Moreover, apps are of limited utility unless a large percentage of a country’s population downloads them.  Added to this is the lack of smartphones which could exclude lower-income peoples and racial minorities.

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Link to the original article for deep read: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/cellphone-monitoring-is-spreading-with-the-coronavirus-so-is-an-uneasy-tolerance-of-surveillance/2020/05/02/56f14466-7b55-11ea-a311-adb1344719a9_story.html

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