Privacy Activists Fear the UK Might Spy on Its Own Citizens to Tackle COVID-19. Here’s What We Know.
- The UK government is in talks with mobile phone providers and tech firms including Google to use phone location data to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak.
- No formal measures have been announced, meaning it’s hard to know whether the UK plans to monitor people individually or just at a broad level.
- But statements given by the tech and telecommunications firms suggest the UK wants to track people’s movements in a general way.
- Privacy activists are concerned that COVID-19 will lead to a broad increase in surveillance, and that people won’t know about it.
- Here’s what we know and don’t know.
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One alarming side effect of the global fight against the novel coronavirus is a massive increase in surveillance.
Governments around the world are introducing new measures to keep the virus under control — including tracking where people are and whether they are infected.
The invasiveness of these measures vary. Israel, for example, passed emergency laws to allow its spy agency to tap into people’s phones without a warrant. South Korea, meanwhile, is broadcasting alerts with patients’ age, gender, and last location. Other countries are corralling anonymised, aggregated location data to track people’s movements in a more general way.
The UK is considering tracking people’s movements with the help of location data, and is in talks with telecoms networks and Google to help.
Here’s what we know so far: