Data Security

Edward Snowden: Coronavirus, a pretext for governments to conduct biometric surveillance

Governments around the world are using all the technological resources at their disposal to deal with the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, although sometimes this could violate user privacy, information securit awareness specialists mentioned.

One of the most controversial claims in this regard was made by Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor in charge of the NSA leaks, who recently stated about the pandemic and the attitude of governments: “When emergency measures are passed, especially these days, these tend to be invasive and lasting. The emergency will expand and, without realizing it, the authorities have acquired new powers over us,” Snowden says.

Information security awareness experts mention
that Snowden’s actions were critical to making data protection a key issue.
Currently isolated in Russia, Snowden says governments could take advantage of
the pandemic to adopt much more stringent data collection and surveillance
measures, as well as that the measures could be extended to the post-emergency
time.

This time, the world’s governments could be
looking for biometric data collection, which could be very useful in taking
surveillance activities to another level: “Governments already have access
to what we see on the Internet. Now they could access our heart rate, blood
pressure, among others; what happens when they combine this information with
artificial intelligence?” questions Snowden.

For example: a man in the US watches a YouTube
video of a federal official giving a speech. If the speech makes you angry, the
user’s pulse and heart rate will increase, which will be recorded on your
smartphone. Using algorithms and this biometric information, this individual
could be recorded on a list of potential terrorists, information security awareness
specialists mentioned.

While this may seem like an exaggeration, the
pandemic has already been used by governments in some parts of the world to
increase its data collection activities. China,
for example, has required its inhabitants to install a mobile app that assigns
them codes that represent their health status. No additional details about this
policy are known, although multiple reports on this new form of data collection
have been leaked.

According to the International Institute of Cyber
Security (IICS)
, governments around the world must ensure that the
current health crisis should not be exploited to increase the extraction of
data from technology users.

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