U.S. colleges incorporate biometrics for covid-19 monitoring, country leads pandemic health spending

U.S. colleges incorporate biometrics for covid-19 monitoring, country leads pandemic health spending

U.S. colleges are looking at geolocation and biometric tech solutions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses, but privacy advocates raise a number of concerns, writes the Washington Post.

The University of Alabama and the University of Arizona are testing Bluetooth-enabled apps to monitor the virus on campus by tracking students who tested positive and their encounters, while Molloy College in New York will use kiosks with thermal scanning to take students’ temperature and will use biometric facial recognition to confirm student identity and track their health. On the other side of the country, the University of California Irvine has developed a Wi-Fi system that keeps track of the number of students and their moves in buildings.

Privacy advocates warn that these solutions have not yet proven effective, yet institutions are rushing to implement them due to financial pressures, which could become a data privacy risk for students.

“We have no evidence that these invasive technologies will be anything more than a dangerous distraction,” Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the civil rights-focused Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told the publication. “Growing numbers of schools are investing in new technologies that will undermine both privacy and public health.”

Other measures are cutting tuition, bringing back less students or just freshmen, and opposing a recent federal initiative that requires international students be present in class or face deportation.

Researchers claim that more than 60 percent of the population needs to use contact-tracing apps for them to be successful, and rushed adoption in the U.S. could result in privacy flaws and risks.

Unlike the U.S., some European countries have already implemented these apps, but in places such as Norway, privacy regulators have temporarily banned the app following surveillance complaints.

A number of U.S. states developed proprietary systems, but they had to disable some features due to privacy concerns.

“There’s definitely an overload of new technologies that are trying to get in on the COVID-19 market,” Matt Albanese, Molloy College’s director of compliance, told the Washington Post. “It is very difficult to go through it and really have to look at the specifications of each product to see what it can actually do instead of what the marketing people are telling you.”

Homeland Security Research predicts the U.S. will drive global spending on healthcare, resources, medical research and medical care for pandemic mitigation, with a market share of 25 percent by 2024, respectively $2.2 trillion of the global market.

The U.S. is currently spending $3.3 trillion, more than China, Japan, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, Italy, Brazil, Canada, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Australia, Mexico, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Switzerland put together ($3.24 trillion).

The report connects China’s successful COVID-19 response to its authoritarian regime that enforced a surveillance platform with 230 million video cameras embedded with biometric facial recognition. The safe city infrastructure was boosted with the “health code” service, which used smart phone platforms to monitor people’s health condition and travel records and assign people color-coded labels.

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