Countries across the globe are all battling the COVID-19 pandemic right now — a struggle that is affecting both lives and the economy. We’re also in a period of time where mass surveillance tools are becoming necessary to contain the virus. From drones to CCTV cameras, those in quarantine in certain countries are being monitored to track the spread of the illness.
It’s unknown how long the surveillance will last, or how these measures will impact individual privacy in the long-term. However, I think it’s necessary for the moment and if surveillance tech can save lives, I’m all for it. As long as we follow the rules, this tech is here to protect us and most importantly, the key workers and those on the frontline.
Here are a few examples of the COVID-19 tracking technologies being used today around the world:
- Internet of Things (IoT)
If you’re in China, the odds are in your favour if you’re wearing a mask, and if you don’t agree, there’s tech to ensure you do. Facial recognition tech has been rolled out by several Chinese companies. The tech is able to flag any citizens not wearing a face mask and can even detect elevated temperatures in a crowd.
According to The Guardian, a range of apps use the personal health information of citizens to alert others of their proximity to infected patients, or whether they have been in close contact.
- Location Data
Israel is using existing phone data to identify people who have come into close contact with known virus carriers. The New York Times has reported that those who have been in close proximity of the virus are alerted with text messages directing them to isolate immediately.
Italy has also analysed location data transmitted by mobile phones to monitor how many are adhering to the government lockdown.
Singapore’s ‘TraceTogether’ smartphone app uses Bluetooth as an alternative to GPS in order to track people in indoor or highly urbanised surroundings. According to the senior director of governmental digital services in Singapore, Bluetooth is effective in ascertaining the distance between two phones.
The i has reported that police in Madrid have deployed drones in public areas to urge people to return to their homes. Drones are also being used in the UK. Derbyshire Police, for example, have used drones to deter people from taking non-essential walks in the Peak District, as demonstrated in this video.