We need to build up immune defence against surveillance
We’ve launched a collaborative inventory of surveillance measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 epidemic outbreak, in order to document the initiatives, the technical means deployed, their threats to civil liberties, democratic control, and the normalization of personal data collection and sharing by public and private actors.
Surveillance initiatives proliferate in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic. They take the form of mobile apps, information sharing and analysis, targeted at understanding, predicting and limiting the spread of the virus, as well as monitoring the quarantine and the confinement of citizens. They rely on the personal information of citizens, their health data, data on their movements, their behaviour and their interactions.
These measures obviously represent a threat to civil liberties and privacy, but not only. They raise a question of democratic oversight, each time they are implemented as fast as possible, without public debate, and within the legal framework of emergency. In this context, presumed technological efficiency takes over any form of deliberation concerning the expected social and political consequences.
Additionally, many initiatives take the shape of public-private partnerships between the state and Big Tech, as well as other digital enterprises that possess a trove of behaviour, interaction and movement data on their users, which they accumulated for the purpose of sale or advertisement. Their use in this exceptional situation risks legitimizing this predatory and illegitimate practice which the businesses of surveillance capitalism carry out and risks normalizing the collection of such information more broadly, especially if the present sanitary crisis were to last.
This does not mean that all measures undertaken in this epidemic context are harmful and undesirable, but we must be in capacity to know them, assess and criticize them.
This data base is built in order to draw up an inventory and to document all the surveillance initiatives implemented, data sharing and data analysis public-private partnerships, as well as the legal and political problems that these initiatives set off.
Maud Barret Bertelloni @MEBertelloni
In these times of emergency, we need to build up our immune defence against surveillance