Technology has become a crucial part of the COVID-19 response, and this has raised some serious questions: Can privacy and public health security go hand in hand? Is it enough to use safeguards such as transparency and the use of intrusive technology only when absolutely necessary?
Many countries today are turning to digital technologies to provide information as well as for monitoring and controlling people infected with the virus, which alerts us to the potential impact of these technologies on people’s fundamental rights.
Over 100 organisations from around the world signed a joint statement stressing that digital surveillance to fight COVID-19 can only be justified if it respects human rights, and setting out conditions that must be met before the use of surveillance technology to fight the pandemic.
As governments around the world attempt to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases, authorities appear to be looking towards technology for support. Chatbots, online dashboards, and mobile caller tunes are some of the digital strategies put on display by officials to raise awareness around Covid-19.
While emergency measures like these are adopted with the aim of slowing the spread of the virus in order to protect public health, it is crucial to ensure that any use of surveillance technology for these purposes strictly adheres to the criteria of necessity and proportionality.
The undersigned organisations express their concern over the announcement of the use of satellite monitoring and georeferencing systems to track individuals as part of the disease containment measures established in Ecuador to confront the COVID-19 epidemic.
APC’s priorities at this HRC session include gender and privacy online, freedom of religion or belief, and the criminalisation of human rights defenders, journalists and digital security and tech expertise, as well as highlighting violations of internet rights in countries like India and Myanmar.
Ola Bini is a computer expert and human rights defender recognised worldwide, who is facing a political-judicial process in Ecuador since April 2019. In regards to this, Ecuadorian and international civil society organisations have decided to attend, as observers, the preparatory hearing and trial evaluation of 5 March 2020.
APC outlines positions on some of the areas covered in the digital strategies presented by the European Commission that will undoubtedly set a key precedent for global discussions on issues such as regulating platforms, data governance and artificial intelligence.
In response to the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) call for expressions of interest to join its Independent Advisory Committee (IAC), APC and other NGOs expressed their concerns about the IAC specifically, and the growing role of GIFCT more broadly in regulating content online.