Several European countries are considering using espionage tools to fight the coronavirus, which could help in efforts against the disease, but could also lead to privacy violation complaints.
The tools would include applications in cell phones that automatically locate the user, and therefore could detect the movements of a virus carrier and the people with whom it comes into contact. The idea would be to have a better picture of where infections are increasing, how they are spreading, and when quarantine is required.
Great Britain, Germany and Italy are among the countries that are considering the use of these apps. This has alarmed privacy advocates, who fear that a espionage A collective of such magnitude could be abused if it is not strictly monitored and that civil liberties could end up severely restricted.
“These are difficult times, but they do not require the use of unproven technologies,” an activist group said in an open letter to the British National Health Service. He added that the espionage it could violate human rights without serving the cause of the fight against the virus.
Unless the information collected is completely anonymous, the espionage It would make a huge difference with current efforts to counter the disease in Europe through cell phones, which have been based on tracking the movements of people based on collective and not individual data. Italian police have even started using drones to enforce travel restrictions.
But still there is an argument in favor of espionage, even though it could undermine privacy: it has been used by several Asian governments that have been successful in containing the pandemic, such as China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore.
Last week, Israel applied the most drastic measure yet, ordering the Shin Bet security agency to use the geographic location data of the cell phones to track the movements of virus carriers in the past two weeks, to develop a pattern of disease transmission. In the world of epidemiology this is called “tracing contacts” although it usually only involves questioning sick individuals about their most recent personal contacts.
So far there is no indication that the United States is planning to monitor citizenship in this way. A spokesperson for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reported that that entity is not developing that app. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.