Novel Coronavirus has reached almost each and every country on the Planet and has become a challenge for governments around the world to curb the spreading of the virus. Currently the virus has infected more than 1.7 million people and more than 100,000 deaths around the world.
To control the spread of the virus 30 countries around the world have started using surveillance programs which in many instances undermines the privacy of individuals which is a complex trade-off since the governments need data to create containment strategies and know where to focus resources.
Taking the example of the United States’ 2001 Patriot Act, which was passed in response to the 9/11 attack, this act gave the government broad surveillance powers with little oversight, including demanding customer data from telecoms without court approval.
One Zero, a Medium publication has mapped all countries around the world that are using surveillance programs to curb the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
It has found that the most common strategy used by the government is the tracking of smartphone location data, which can track population-level movement down to enforcing individual quarantines. Some governments have developed Coronavirus health information apps that also sharing location information with authorities for a period of time.
For instance, the Iranian government released an app in early March that is pitched as a self-diagnostic tool. The app efficiency was really low, it gave reports of asymptomatic carriers of the virus, the app saved location data of millions of its citizens, as reported by Vice.
One Zero also reported that the most alarming measures are being implemented in Argentina where those who are caught breaking quarantine are being forced to download an app that tracks their location.
Countries that are using surveillance to control the Novel Coronavirus:
Argentina – The Ministry of Health has built a mandatory app for those entering the country to keep installed for 14 days, which requires users to give access to location data.
Australia – Those ordered into quarantine could have government surveillance devices installed in their homes or be forced to wear electronic surveillance devices, according to a new law in the state of Western Australia.
Austria – An Austrian telecom gave two days’ worth of anonymized location data to the government in order to analyze movement in the country.
Bahrain – Bahrain has started using electronic bracelets connected to a mobile app to track confirmed cases of the coronavirus, similar to an initiative in Hong Kong. The punishment for being caught breaking the quarantine is a potential prison sentence of at least three months.
Belgium – Telecom companies in Belgium are giving data to a company called Dalberg Data Insights, which is analyzing the information to detect widespread trends of movement in the country.
Brazil – Location data of citizens is being tracked and a number of Brazilian startups are working in conjunction with government.
China – China is known for its surveillance strategies and to curb the disease the country is using facial recognition, location-tracking through their phones.
The Chinese government is using a smartphone app in 200 cities to track the health status of its citizens and assigns them a classification of green, yellow, or red, as reported by the New York Times. The app sends that data to the police and works as a hall pass for entry into certain public places.
Dubai, UAE – Cameras are now used to track that person traveling is an essential worker.
Ecuador – Location tracking using telecom companies data.
Finland – Swedish telecom company Telia gave anonymized phone location data to the government for analysis of user movement in the country.
Germany – Tracking using location data from telecom companies and a bluetooth-based app could be launched soon.
Hong Kong – Those in quarantine must wear electronic wristbands that are paired with their smartphone to track their locations.
India – India is using both digital and analog surveillance, like Location data and CCTV footage are being used to track citizens in Kerala while in some states stamping the hands of those arriving in airports with irremovable ink, with the stamp detailing the date until which the person must quarantine.
Indian authorities are also using personal data from airlines and railways.
Facial recognition is replacing the fingerprint scanner based operations around the country.
Government has also developed an app called Aarogya Setu that offers Coronavirus health information and also uses Bluetooth and Location data to track users.
Indonesia – App based tracking that tracks interactions with nearby Bluetooth devices including smartphones.
Iran – App based tracking
Israel – Data from Telecom companies to track millions, to find those who are diagnosed and alert those who might have interacted with an infected person. Those breaking quarantine are threatened with up to six months of imprisonment.
Italy – Telecom companies like Vodafone are providing heatmaps of its mobile phone users’ locations.
Kenya – 24/7 Aerial surveillance to track illegal crossings of goods or people over the country’s border.
Norway – A voluntary app that tracks GPS and Bluetooth data, to be stored for 30 days.
Pakistan – Location surveillance and sending alerts to those who are found to have potentially come in contact with those suffering the disease in the past 14 days.
Poland – App named Home Quarantine for citizens who are quarantined to intermittently check-in by sending a picture of themselves at home within 20 minutes or face a fine.
Russia – Facial Recognition, Phone-based location tracking
According to the Washington Post report, in the Nizhny Novgorod region, citizens download an app that generates a unique, timed QR code that allows them to go out for three hours to get groceries, one hour to walk a dog, or 30 minutes to take out the trash.
Singapore – Trace Together app for Contact Tracing
South Africa – Telecom Companies share cellphone location data in order to track the pandemic as reported by Business Insider South Africa.
South Korea – CCTV Footage, Smartphone location tracking, Credit Card purchases
Switzerland – Telecom Companies based data alerts the government.
Taiwan – Taiwan is tracking its citizens’ movement by triangulating the location of their cellphone between nearby cell towers.
Thailand – New SIM Card for those coming from High risk areas
Turkey – All Telecom companies in Turkey are sharing user data to the Turkish government to track the locations of coronavirus patients using their cellular data, and will automatically send warning messages if they are detected violating quarantine.
According to Human Right Watch in Turkey the government has drafted a new law that would mandate that social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp have a legal representative in Turkey that the government could pressure to take down content or ban accounts.
United Kingdom – Telecom companies tracking location data
United States – GPS ankle monitors, Live location data