Can the world shake off COVID-19 biometric surveillance?
The Thomson Reuters Foundation has collated examples from around the world of instances of pandemic-related biometric surveillance and spoken to civil society to ask whether the apparatus is here to stay and if that means mass surveillance has been normalized.
A project to implement biometric surveillance apparatus proposed to track people with COVID-19 via artificial intelligence, facial recognition and a CCTV network in South Korea has reportedly faced delays and raised privacy concerns. Fears there are that it has become normal to show identity to enter venues.
Countries across East Asia continue to trace citizens via apps, and in Singapore this data would be shared with police to investigate serious criminal activity. Food delivery firms are sharing staff names and body temperatures with clients.
Municipal workers in some Indian cities have had to wear tracking devices while New Delhi teachers have even brought a lawsuit against the use of biometrics in an attendance app, according to the report.
Members of civil society interviewed thought the deployment of tracing apps in Europe was generally handled well in terms of privacy, in part as a result of public discourse. Another thought people are feeling tired of being spied on and awareness of it has grown.
They believe that governments have the duty to phase out tracing apps and may even need to push for deletion.
Private sector sources see instead opportunities for using and further developing the systems to simplify process such as hotel check-ins and restaurant payments.