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States use of digital surveillance technologies to fight pandemic must respect human rights, say civil society groups

[W]e urge governments to show leadership in tackling the pandemic in a way that ensures that the use of digital technologies to track and monitor individuals and populations is carried out strictly in line with human rights... [A]n increase in state digital surveillance powers, such as obtaining access to mobile phone location data, threatens privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of association, in ways that could violate rights and degrade trust in public authorities – undermining the effectiveness of any public health response... We call on all governments not to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with increased digital surveillance unless the following conditions are met:

  1. Surveillance measures adopted to address the pandemic must be lawful, necessary and proportionate...
  2. [S]uch powers must be time-bound, and only continue for as long as necessary to address the current pandemic...
  3. States must ensure that increased collection, retention, and aggregation of personal data, including health data, is only used for the purposes of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic...
  4. Governments must take every effort to protect people’s data...
  5. Any use... must address the risk that these tools will facilitate discrimination and other rights abuses against racial minorities, people living in poverty, and other marginalized populations...
  6. If governments enter into data sharing agreements with other public or private sector entities, they must be based on law, and the existence of these agreements and information necessary to assess their impact on privacy and human rights must be publicly disclosed...
  7. Any response must incorporate accountability protections and safeguards against abuse...
  8. COVID-19 related responses that include data collection efforts should include means for free, active, and meaningful participation of relevant stakeholders.