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UN Special Rapporteur calls for robust & transparent public oversight of surveillance companies seeking entrance into COVID-19 surveillance field

“Disease pandemics and the freedom of opinion and expression, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression”, 23 April 2020

The…report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye…registers alarm that some efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic may be failing to meet the standards of legality, necessity and proportionality. The Special Rapporteur highlights five areas of concern, showing that access to information, independent media and other free expression rights are critical to meeting the challenges of pandemic… Particularly in the face of a global pandemic, the free flow of information, unhindered by threats and intimidation and penalties, protects life and health and enables and promotes critical social, economic, political and other policy discussions and decision-making... Many private surveillance companies have histories of problematic support for and engagement in human rights violations, yet some are reportedly already seeking entrance into the COVID-19 surveillance field. Such private actors should be subject to robust and transparent public oversight and should themselves adopt policies consistent with the [UNGPs]... Lies and propaganda deprive individuals of autonomy, of the capacity to think critically, of trust in themselves and in sources of information, and of the right to engage in the kind of debate that improves social conditions. [C]ensorship can kill, by design or by negligence...