COVID-19 and Technology_Femi Ehiabhi

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways we interact and has everyone thinking more about our health and well-being.

But that shift in mindset means that daily activities like going grocery shopping or simple things like standing in an elevator will come with even more surveillance strings attached.

The response by governments and the tech industry to the coronavirus outbreak has already raised many concerns about privacy from contact tracing apps, mobile location data tracking and police surveillance drones.

The outbreak has also brought new privacy issues, as companies beef up surveillance with tech like thermal cameras and facial recognition in preparation for when people return to their everyday lives.

Surveillance technology has slowly integrated into our daily lives, with facial recognition getting added as a “convenience” feature for casinos and ordering food.

The coronavirus has sped up that process, in the name of public health. Shopping centers have long used Bluetooth trackers to determine crowd sizes and whereabouts, and the pandemic has shifted its use to enable contact tracing.

Vantiq, a software company that builds a platform for developers and businesses to roll out their apps, has been repurposing its tools to focus on technology tied to tracing COVID-19.

Since March, the company has built tools to enable the tracking of COVID-19 through facial recognition and thermal cameras being used by private companies.
Its tools have been used in social distancing programs like an app to reserve a spot at a food market.

The company and its tools represent the double-sided nature of the effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The technology promises to help, but it also comes at the cost of your privacy, experts warn. More worrisome is the notion that the pandemic-driven level of surveillance becomes the new normal. Privacy advocates like have warned about government overreach, arguing that these current measures won’t be scaled back once the public health crisis has ended.

With governments beginning to ease shelter-in-place lockdowns, and businesses reopening under extra precautions, many will turn to technology for detection and enforcement. The future of surveillance in daily life will be decided in the next few years, with public safety and COVID-19 driving the debate.

“We always risk that if you create a new set of norms about what to expect on privacy, those norms last,” said Mark Surman, executive director of Firefox maker Mozilla. “We could be left with a legacy. The choice to make now is what legacy we want.”

The demand for surveillance technology like thermal scanners has surged because of COVID-19.

Companies are using software to monitor employees working from home. Students are also being watched remotely through exam monitoring software, despite privacy concerns about the practice.

Culled from CNET

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