Human Rights Watch says mobile location tracking programs used by govts. in the fight against Covid-19 pose serious risks to human rights

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Autor/in: Human Rights Watch

The mobile location tracking programs governments are using in the fight against Covid-19... may introduce unnecessary and disproportionate surveillance measures in public health disguise... “Some restrictions on people’s rights may be justifiable during a public health emergency, but people are being asked to sacrifice their privacy and turn over personal data for use by untested technologies,” said Deborah Brown, senior digital rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Containing the pandemic and reopening society are essential goals, but we can do this without pervasive surveillance.”

... Human Rights Watch warned that governments and the private sector should not promote or use unproven and untested technology. The long history of emergency measures shows that when surveillance is introduced, it usually goes too far, fails to meet its objectives, and once approved, often outlasts its justification... Excessively compromising privacy is a gateway to undermining other rights, such as freedom of movement, expression, and association... [HRW] also cautioned that over-reliance on mobile location tracking for Covid-19 responses could exclude marginalized groups who may not have reliable access to the internet and mobile technology, putting their health and livelihoods at risk. Some communities, such as migrant workers, refugees, and homeless people, live in cramped conditions that would undermine accuracy of contact tracing apps... There are serious questions as to whether the use of Covid-19 tracking initiatives can meet the international human rights standards of necessity and proportionality.

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Autor/in: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned about proposals for the use of mobile location data in the Covid-19 response because the data usually contains sensitive and revealing insights about people’s identity, location, behavior, associations, and activities... [G]overnments should not use or approve technologies using mobile location data to combat Covid-19 until they have demonstrated that they are necessary and proportionate to combat the spread of the disease and have enacted adequate safeguards to prevent human rights abuses. They should address the more fundamental question of whether such technologies are truly effective in curbing the spread of Covid-19 or may in fact misrepresent an individual’s risk of infection or mislead the public. They should also assess whether there are ways to combat the pandemic that are less intrusive on rights, such as privacy and freedom of movement, than deploying location tracking technologies... Human Rights Watch has considerable doubt about whether the programs using mobile location data described in this Q&A can satisfy this threshold.

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