With Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions being struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court, imagine if she or other political leaders were to resort to a number of intrusive surveillance measures to enforce monitoring of people infected with COVID-19. Think it’s crazy? Asia shows what may be in store for other countries, including the United States.
Drones, fever goggles, arrests: millions in Asia face ‘extreme’ Covid surveillance
Coronavirus tracking measures handing ‘unchecked powers’ to authoritarian regimes, experts warn
By Harriet Grant, October 1, 2020, The Guardian
Draconian surveillance measures introduced during the Covid-19 epidemic are handing “unchecked powers” to authoritarian regimes across Asia, human rights experts are warning.
In a report out today, risk analysts warn that “extreme measures and unchecked powers” brought in to tackle Covid-19 could become permanent features of government across the region, and have an impact on the rights and privacy of millions of people.
Analysts at Verisk Maplecroft found that surveillance tools and technology such as fever detection goggles, drones that monitor curfews and lockdown, and apps that track the spread of Covid are already being deployed as part of laws and other measures brought in during the pandemic in countries including Cambodia, China, Pakistan and Thailand.
The report also highlights a trend of arrests linked to citizens criticising national Covid response programmes, pointing to Cambodia where people speaking out about the government’s policies had been detained.
Verisk Maplecroft’s Right to Privacy Index (RPI) has assessed 198 countries on arbitrary and mass surveillance operations. The index found that Asia was the highest-risk region for breaches of privacy.
Other countries named in the report include Pakistan – ranked fourth highest in the risk analysis – where a “secretive militant-tracking surveillance system is being used to monitor coronavirus patients”.
“Countries like China and Cambodia don’t need a reason to up their surveillance but Covid has accelerated the pace at which these types of technology can be abused,” says Sofia Nazalya, a senior human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.