CAPE TOWN – Democracy and human rights research group, Freedom House says governments around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic, to expand digital surveillance on their citizens.
According to a report the group published on Tuesday, authorities cited Covid-19 to justify expanded surveillance powers and the deployment of new technologies that were once seen as too intrusive.
“The public health crisis has created an opening for the digitization, collection, and analysis of people’s most intimate data without adequate protections against abuses,”
“Governments and private entities are ramping up their use of artificial intelligence (AI), biometric surveillance, and big-data tools to make decisions that affect individuals’ economic, social, and political rights,” said the group.
The report also revealed that independent news sites were often blocked and individuals arrested on charges of spreading false news. As documented in the report authorities censored reporting on the virus in 28 countries and arrested online critics in 45 countries.
“In at least 20 countries, the pandemic was cited as a justification to impose vague or overly broad restrictions on speech. Residents of at least 13 countries experienced internet shutdowns. In at least 30 countries, governments are invoking the pandemic to engage in mass surveillance in direct partnership with telecommunications providers and other companies,” states the report.
Meanwhile, Facebook announced on Tuesday that it will ban ads that discourage people from getting a vaccine but will still allow ads that advocate for or against government policies around vaccines.
The company already bans ads with vaccine “hoaxes” that have been publicly identified by leading global health organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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